Kevin Durant remains the hottest thing this side of the Sun and Blake Bortles’ girlfriend. He’s topped 30 points in 11 straight games, and Durant is gunning for Kobe’s record of 16. He’s your scoring leader and MVP leader. He’s immune to double teams, and you don’t want to get him angry. The scariest part? He just turned 25 in September. He’s probably just entering his prime. Also, Durant is doing all of this damage without wingman Russell Westbrook (knee).
A couple jaw-dropping stats: Durant’s shooting 45% on pull-up jumpers (the only NBA shooter who plays significant minutes that tops him is Rudy Gay at 47%) and 57% on drives (LeBron is at 63%). Durant’s only kryptonite right now is catch-and-shoot situations, where he’s shooting 37% (Melo’s at 47%, Aldridge’s at 47%, and Curry’s at 44%). Good luck forcing him into exclusively catch-and-shoot situations.
For those of you who get invigorated by early-season NBA games and Christmas Day hoops, but push the sport to the backburner in dreary January, here’s what you’ve missed: The Miami Heat coasted through the early part of the New Year, going 5-5 with losses to vastly inferior teams like New York, Brooklyn, Washington and Atlanta. They’ve since won three in a row, and everyone’s thinking what you’re thinking: Mid-season doldrums happen, but they’re still right there with Indiana as the best team in the East, and LeBron will takeover in May and be playing in the Finals in June. The Pacers lead the East by three games.
Quick reminder: No team has played in the Finals four years in a row since the early 80s Lakers and the Boston Celtics from 1984 to 1987. Jordan’s Bulls teams never did it. Nor did Kobe and Shaq, or Duncan’s Spurs. Those three consecutive runs to the finals amounted to 67 playoff games, or essentially, another entire season. Wisely, the Heat are resting Dwyane Wade more this season, and LeBron’s playing fewer minutes and taking fewer shots (both just slightly down from last year). Not that LeBron loves that:
“I’m not playing as many minutes as I would like but Spo is in control of that,” James said Tuesday. “I don’t like playing less, I don’t feel like I need to play less. Don’t ever put it out there that LeBron wants to play less.”
The guess here: Battier on Durant for much of the first three quarters, and then LeBron faces him head-to-head in the 4th, when it matters. The Heat are favored by four, and I’ll give them a 97-91 victory.
The game’s on ESPN.
[ed. note: an earlier version stated that the Boston Celtics with Larry Bird did not reach four straight NBA finals]