In the race for MVP in this truncated NBA season– look no further than LeBron James.
On Monday night, James delivered another stellar performance to single-handedly propel the Dwayne Wade-less Miami Heat over the New Jersey Nets 101-98 in late-game comeback at the Prudential Center. In a furious one-man rally, James resembled the LeBron of old, outscoring the entire Nets team 17-9 over the final five-minutes of the game. In a burst of speed, agility and sheer dominance, James scored 17 consecutive points, en route to a game-high 37 points, to erase a 13-point Heat deficit in the waning minutes of the game. What made his one-man show even more stunning was that he was able to captivate the New Jersey fans and propel them to not only recognize James’ performance, but also anoint him the best player in the NBA, as the crowd rained down chants of “MVP, MVP!”
This scene had been a familiar one over the past few months, as James has mesmerized arenas across the Association with the best statistical year of his career. All season, the MVP debate has gone back-and-forth between James and Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant. But, as the both of superstars’ teams have appeared mortal after the All-Star break –the Heat are 15-10 and the Thunder have been a mediocre 4-5 in April– LeBron’s impact on Miami’s last two wins has pushed him ahead of Durant in the race.
Part of the reason James’ has surged ahead of the rest –aside from him adding post moves to his already deadly game– is the fact that he’s stepping up when D. Wade is sidelined from playing. Whether it’s due to injury or Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra’s so-called “maintenance program,” Wade has sat on the Miami bench more than ever this season, which has allowed James to not only flourish, but repair his once tarnished image of not being a leader. In the total 13 games Wade has sat, the Heat are 12-1, with James elevating his game to soaring heights in the process. According to ESPN Stats & Info, with Wade off the floor, James averages 30.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists every 36 minutes while putting up an extraordinary player efficiency rating (PER) of 35.6. In comparison to D.Wade being present, James’ numbers sharply decline to just 22.7 points per 36 minutes, while his efficiency rating slides to a mere 27.4. With Wade on the bench, LeBron has raised his PER right back to where it was before he made his departure from Cleveland (30.6 this season vs. 31.1 in ’09-’10), where he named back-to-back league MVP.
King James has made the most of his renewed opportunity in Miami this season. Monday night’s 37-point performance against the Nets was just the latest example of what’s to come as the regular-season comes to an end and the playoffs get underway. In his best statistical season of his career, James has left no doubt that he is the best all-around player in the Association– without a doubt.
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