The Heat sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 18-6 record. Even though two of those losses have come against a suprisingly strong New York team, Miami remains the favorite to make it back to the NBA finals and defend the crown it won against the Thunder.
Of the five games being played today, there is no bigger individual matchup than Durant versus LeBron James. The pair of small forwards are having similar statistical seasons. Durant averages 27.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists, while LeBron averages 25.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists.
It’s the hardware that separates the two now. From regular season MVP, to Finals MVP to the NBA title, LeBron has everything Durant wants. And despite the fact they have been offseason workout partners and won Olympic gold together, the three-time scoring champion said he is just as passionate about taking them all from his friend.
“I really respect him and I really compete against him hard,” Durant said. “We’re friends, everybody knows that. Once you get on that court and you’re playing against one of your friends, you play to win no matter what. Sometimes he might get the best of you, I might get the best of him one time. But I really respect him and that’s cool that he thinks of me that way and I’ve just got to keep working hard to continue to get better.”
James is using Durant as inspiration also. While the 28-year-old seems to have the world in his hands, he knows his grip isn’t as tight as it used to be.
“I know there is someone, somewhere, trying to take my spot,” James told Sports Illustrated. “And I know where he is, too. He’s in Oklahoma. He’s my inspiration because I see the direction he’s headed, and it’s the same direction I’m headed.
“I know his mindset, and he knows mine. It’s a collision course. We’re driving one another.”
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