7:00 PM ET, January 29, 2014
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
Maybe not, but it's entertaining to watch the two superstars square off.
It's Heat vs. Thunder, not James vs. Durant, 1-on-1. But James will be guarding Durant at times on Wednesday night when Miami plays host to Oklahoma City in a matchup of the teams who met in the 2012 NBA Finals.
It's an unenviable task, especially when considering that Durant is on career-best paces this season and that he's scored at least 30 points in his last 11 games.
"Individually, he can't be stopped by any 1-on-1 player," James said. "There's nobody that can guard him 1-on-1."
Perhaps fortunately for James, it's never been a mano-a-mano scoring matchup, or else the won-loss records might be a bit different.
In 16 meetings of their teams to date, Durant has outscored James nine times. But James' teams are 13-3 in those games, including Miami's 4-1 series victory in the 2012 Finals. As long as that trend continues Wednesday, James likely won't care -- not much, anyway -- about the individual numbers at game's end.
"I like going against the best," James said. "And he's definitely right up there. ... He's a great guy to compete against, man. I wish I could play against him every night because he brings that competitive nature out of you."
This roll Durant is on -- averaging 38.5 points in his last 11 games, shooting 64 percent over his last six and guiding the Thunder to the best record in the Western Conference at 36-10 even without Russell Westbrook for 21 games so far -- has James marveling. If the season was ending right now, voters would likely tab Durant as the one who should be hoisting the league's MVP trophy over James, who has gotten it in four of the past five seasons.
James insists that he's not fixated on the MVP race, especially since the season is barely half over.
And Durant isn't thinking about how what he does now might pay off with some hardware come May, either.
"I'm just going out there and having fun, man," Durant said. "I'm just trying to play. I'm not coming in saying, `I've got to do this.' I'm not one of those guys that predetermines anything. I just go off how the game is played and the defense teams are throwing at me and just play and be aggressive that way. I'm just enjoying it and having fun with it and taking it a day at a time."
James has been on scoring runs like the one Durant is on now, as have most of the other elite scorers in the league, so he knows that there's times when good offense is better than good defense.
But it's more than scoring that's making Durant stand out this season. He's on pace to be the first player since Heat guard Dwyane Wade in 2008-09 to average at least 30 points and five assists per game, and the first since Michael Jordan in 1991-92 to do so while shooting at least 50 percent from the floor.
"Video game numbers," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
James said he will rely on help when guarding Durant on Wednesday, though the concept of team defense isn't exactly foreign to the Heat. Only five opposing players have scored more than 30 points in a game against Miami so far this season, none getting more than Stephen Curry's 36 for Golden State on Jan. 2.
But make no mistake, this will be a test.
"Two guys at the top of their games," Wade said.
Last 5 Games
Team Stat Leaders
Durant's currently averaging over 30 points and shooting over 40 percent from the 3-point line. The only other player to average 30 points while shooting 40+ percent from 3-point range in a single season was Michael Jordan (1995-96).
Kevin Durant is just 3-13 in his career head-to-head against LeBron James, but don't blame his offense... While Durant has seen a slight bump in turnovers, he averages more points per game while shooting better from the floor against James' teams compared to all other games in his career.[+]
Something to keep in mind when referencing Kevin Durant's 3-13 head-to-head record against LeBron James... Michael Jordan was just 5-11 in his 1st 16 meetings with Charles Barkley. Jordan would go 26-13 against Barkley the rest of his career including a 12-4 mark in the playoffs.[+]
1st 16 Head-to-Head Meetings - Notable Rivalries
Kevin Durant has scored at least 30 points in 11 straight games and he faces one of the best individual defenders, and one of the best defensive teams on Wednesday, in LeBron James and the Heat. But he could be poised to continue this hot stretch. Why Kevin Durant could go off on Wednesday: * He's scored 30 points 8 times in 16 career games vs LeBron James... But 7 times in 11 games vs LeBron since he joined the Heat * He's averaged 29.5 PPG in 16 career games vs LeBron James... But 31.5 PPG in 11 games vs LeBron since he joined the Heat * He shoots 50.3% in 16 career games vs LeBron James... But 52.4% in 11 games vs LeBron since he joined the Heat * He has 15 offensive rebounds in 16 career games vs LeBron James... But 13 in 11 games vs LeBron since he joined the Heat * He's taken a bigger share of the load since Russell Westbrook got hurt on Christmas Day.[+]
Check out LeBron and Durant's numbers head-to-head with both players on the court in their last 9 matchups including the playoffs. Durant has outscored LeBron, but has fallen short in rebounding and assists, while his Thunder have been outscored by 69 pts in 354 minutes. Source: NBA.com[+]
354 Minutes On Court Together - Previous 2 Seasons (including Playoffs)
Through their first 16 meetings, Kevin Durant and LeBron James have made and attempted almost the exact same number of shots. But James has been far more adept at getting his teammates involved and boasts a 13-3 mark in their 16 head-to-head contests.[+]
According to player efficiency rating, which is a rating of a player's per-minute productivity and is pace adjusted, Durant is having one of the top ten seasons in NBA history. Durant's player efficiency rating of 31.1 would be tied for the 9th-highest mark dating back to the first season PER data was available in 1951-52. The only players to register a PER higher than 31.1 in a single-season were Michael Jordan (3 times), Wilt Chamberlain (3) and LeBron James (2). Durant's not far off from the all-time record of 31.8, set by Chamberlain in 1962-63 .[+]
Highest Player Efficiency Rating Since 1951-52
OKC went just 5-5 after losing Russell Westbrook in late December ... But the Thunder have since reeled off 8-straight victories, the longest active win streak in the NBA.[+]
Thunder Without Russell Westbrook - Since Dec. 27th
"Win Shares per 48 minutes" are an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player per 48 minutes. The league average is approximately 0.10. The Thunder have played 20 games with Durant in the lineup and Westbrook on the bench. OKC has gone 14-6 in those games. While Durant has kept OKC on a winning path, the same can't be said for the other 3 players on the win shares (per 48 minutes) leaderboard. LeBron James and the Heat are just 7-6 this season in games Dwyane Wade has missed. Kevin Love's Timberwolves are just 22-22 this season, currently in 11th place in the Western Conference and 3 games back of the Mavericks for the 8th spot. And the Clippers have a better win percentage without Chris Paul (.769) than they do with him (.647).[+]
Kevin Durant is averaging 36.9 points this month. That would be tied for the 2nd-highest scoring average in the month of January dating back to the ABA-NBA merger in 1976-77. Only Kobe Bryant posted a higher average at 43.4 PPG back in 2006. In case you're wondering --- Wilt Chamberlain holds the all-time mark. He averaged 51.8 points per game in January, 1962.[+]
Kevin Durant had his usual 30+ point game, but the Thunder received 33 points combined from Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb. The pair came off the bench to match the scoring output of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.[+]
The Thunder trailed by as many as 18 in the 1st quarter. That ties the biggest deficit Oklahoma City has faced in an opening quarter in the last 3 seasons. The team also trailed by 18 in the 1st quarter against the Timberwolves on Nov. 1st this season. Minnesota would go on to win by 19.
If Kevin Durant wants to keep up his shooting numbers, he'll have to focus on those 5-to-14 footers. His highest field goal percentages on those shots over the last two seasons have come against the two teams he faces to close out the month, Miami and Brooklyn (min. 2 games). His field goal percentages inside 5 feet and from 15 or more feet against the Heat are his third worst against a single team over the last two seasons (min. 2 games).[+]
Highest Field Goal Pct On FG 5-14 Feet - Kevin Durant Last 2 Seasons (Min. 2 Games)
The Thunder assisted on 13 of their 16 3-point field goals Wednesday (81.3 percent), 10 of which came on catch and shoots. Entering the night, the Thunder had assisted on a league-low 71.7 percent of their made 3-pointers.[+]
3-Point Shooting on Catch-and-Shoots Wednesday
Kevin Durant didn't guard LeBron James frequently Wednesday, but Durant got the upper hand on both ends of the floor. James made Durant settle for long jumpers all night, but Durant still went 9-of-17 for 23 points against James. James was nearly unstoppable when anyone else guarded him Wednesday. James was 10-of-14 when not guarded by Durant with an average field goal distance of 10.4 feet. James went a combined 8-of-9 (21 points) against Perry Jones and Thabo Sefolosha.[+]
Durant and James When Guarded by Each Other Wednesday
Kendrick Perkins started the game for the Thunder Wednesday night but was pulled 4:36 into the game with the Thunder trailing 15-2, and he never returned. The Thunder opted for a small lineup the rest of the way, with Perry Jones playing 30 minutes (season average: 11.1). The Thunder failed to record a single fast-break point with Perkins on the court. Once Perkins left, the Thunder outscored the Heat by 30, scoring 20 fast-break points in the process.
ESPN Stats & Information