Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
James attacked the basket far more than Durant, but Durant owned the perimeter this season.Three-time NBA MVP LeBron James and three-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant will go head-to-head in the NBA Finals (ABC and ESPN3, 9 ET), making it the 12th time in NBA Finals history that a matchup involved players who finished 1-2 in the MVP voting for that season.
James leads the Miami Heat into the Finals for the second consecutive season, making it his third-career Finals appearance overall. Durant will make his first-career Finals appearance, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the franchise’s first championship round since they were the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.
As dynamic as these two prolific scorers are, they record their points in different ways. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of each player’s strengths and the history of the matchup.
During the regular season, James attacked the basket more than Durant. Among the 1,683 total points James scored, 37.4 percent occurred within five feet of the basket. Only 24.1 percent of Durant’s baskets were scored within that range.
Inside the paint, James was one of the league’s leaders. He recorded 12.2 points per game in the paint, the fourth-highest average among all players this season.
On the perimeter, Durant has the edge. Of his NBA-high 1,850 total points, 43.4 percent of Durant’s points were scored outside of the paint. By comparison, James only recorded 31.9 percent of his points from outside that area.
Also, Durant is the better pure shooter. From 15 feet and beyond, Durant connected on 42.5 percent of his field goals, trailing only Dirk Nowitzki (44.8) and Chris Paul (42.6) among players that ranked in the top 20 in scoring during the regular season.
The Real Help
James might play alongside former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, but Durant has benefited the most from his team’s point guard play. Overall, 48.1 percent of Durant’s field goals were assisted during the regular season, compared to just 37.4 percent of James’ field goals.
Much of that was a result of Durant playing alongside All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. Although Westbrook isn’t viewed much as a distributor, he assisted on 171 of Durant’s field goals, the third-most assists by one player on a single teammate’s field goals in the NBA this season. Only Steve Nash (217 to Marcin Gortat) and Chris Paul (187 to Blake Griffin) assisted more of a teammate’s field goals.
History Dominated by James
James and Durant - Head-to-Head All-Time
Game 1 will be the 10th meeting between James and Durant, with the previous nine coming in the regular season. Durant holds the scoring edge with a 27.3 points average, but James has been more efficient from the field shooting 49.7 percent. Overall, James has dominated the most important category, winning seven of the nine meetings. The Heat and Thunder split the 2011-12 regular season series 1-1.