Kevin Durant – perennial runnier-up in the race to be named the NBA’s MVP – is on course to end his hoodoo and thwart LeBron James’ chances of an unprecedented fifth crown in six seasons.
Durant is on fire for Oklahoma City at present, scoring a total of 130 points in his last three matches.
The three-time MVP runner-up has now dropped more than 30 points for eight consecutive games and has boosted his average to 40.6 over a five-game stretch.
All this has helped OKC put together a 32-10 record at the half-way stage of the regular season, with his side now 15/8 favourites to land the Western Conference title.
Only San Antonio have a better record in the conference, but with the Thunder on a four-game streak and Durant in the form of his life – his recent 54 against Golden State was a career high – the ageing Spurs are likely to be overhauled in the coming days.
However, points do not always mean prizes as far as the MVP race is concerned with Durant outscoring James in both the regular and postseason last year and in the playoffs in 2012.
But Durant’s all-round game this season is counting in his favour, while Miami’s stuttering defence could scupper LeBron’s chances at a third straight title.
KD is not only outscoring James this season (30.9 to 26.2), but also leading in rebounds (7.8 to 6.7), while practically matching the Heat man for field goal percentage (.579 to .580).
Miami remain favourites to land the Eastern Conference – at odds of 5/6 – and to retain the championship at 11/5, but a less-than-impressive six-game road trip has seen the Indiana Pacers cement their credentials for the title as 3/1 second favourites.
And while a Thunder-Heat final remains a likely proposition the series would only give Durant the platform to hammer home his own credentials.
Many fans are urging James on to go level with legendary Chicago Bulls man Michael Jordan as a five-time recipient of the Maurice Podoloff trophy, but with the former Cleveland Cavaliers man down on points, rebounds and assists and up on turnovers his run as MVP king looks set to end.
Durant has upped his game from already-extraordinary heights, so expect the Miami man to be left wanting as KD finally breaks his duck.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date
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