First, it was Friday night’s 113-103 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, then Sunday’s 112-103 victory against the LA Clippers and now LeBron James has unexpectedly planted himself back in the race for MVP.
Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the front runner for the title again this season, single-handedly guiding the Bucks to a 53-12 league-best record. However, the King has now roared with two consecutive take-downs of the two most prominent teams in the league, and the world is listening.
James was named player of the week in the Western Conference for his performances in which he shot 52% from the field while averaging 29 points, 10.3 assists, and 7.3 rebounds. On Friday alone, he dropped 37 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to reassert his royalty against the Greek Freak who donned a little crown of his own when beating the Lakers earlier this season.
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 32 points and 12 rebounds as he and James are consistently put up very competitive stats. Regardless of the fan hype surrounding what we now term an MVP battle, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had a different opinion:
“LeBron definitely got the upper-hand in tonight’s matchup, but it’s one game out of 82,” Vogel said, via USA Today’s Mark Medina. “I think LeBron would tell you himself that [the MVP race is] not anything that really motivates him. It was about beating the Bucks tonight. I’ll let the fans or you nice people talk about MVP comparisons.”
But there is no denying that the Bucks/Lakers showdown held a heavy Playoff atmosphere in the Staples Centre. James matched up with Antetokounmpo 35 times in the game after Anthony Davis drew two early fouls in his attempt.
Antetokounmpo seemed to be the only productive player in his roster despite it not being his best game and the Lakers countered on this with their relentless offence. LA rained down an 18-0 run in the final quarter with James firmly planted as team catalyst, the largest by any team against the Milwaukee Bucks this season.
Given Friday’s result, it would have been ignorant to believe LeBron was anything other than ready to battle Kawhi’s Clippers for their first win this season. The King yet again locked in, using his speed and IQ to attack the rim and kick out to the open man when compromised.
James sank 28 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists by the end of his tirade after setting a very self-benefiting tone of which Vogel said he was just too much for either team to handle and there is no argument there.
Along with Davis, the duo held Kawhi to zero assists on Sunday and positively stifled his performance. Davis hit a team-high 30 points but he still jumped at the chance to commend his four-time MVP teammate:
“What he’s been able to do, taking on match-ups defensively, leading the pack offensively, making the right plays, you don’t see that from a guy who is 17 years in the league and his team is No. 1 in the West. He’s continuing to show the world why he’s the best and if people don’t understand that, then (after) the last two games, I think they understand now.”
Screaming into a camera, the King made a bold statement to all of his opponents in the league and his roar will echo long into the Playoffs.
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