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CHARLOTTE -- Don't expect LeBron James to concede the league MVP race to buddy Kevin Durant anytime soon.
A night after Durant scored a career-high 54 points in Oklahoma City's home win over Golden State, James said he's been inspired by the Thunder star's recent performances and isn't beyond using them as motivation to respond with his own breakout play.
James has won four MVP awards, including each of the last two. Durant has finished second in MVP voting to James on three of the four occasions. Last week, James told ESPN.com that at times he's jealous of the shot attempts Durant gets as the Thunder's lone prolific scorer while Russell Westbrook is out with a knee injury.
Asked before Saturday's game against Charlotte if, at this point in his career he's beyond trying to match big performances he sees from others around the league, James shook his head and grinned.
"Nah, I ain't beyond that. I ain't beyond that at all," James said. "I love when I see K.D. do something like that. It gives me an incentive. I don't get that many shots around here, but I might be able to do a little something. I might be able to get a couple of dunks."
To back up his point, James scored 34 points on 13 of 25 shooting from the field to go with eight points and six assists in Saturday night's 104-96 overtime win over the Bobcats.
Durant leads the league in scoring at 30.6 points entering the weekend, but has also improved just about every other aspect of his game this season. He scored 48 points twice earlier this month before he torched the Warriors on Friday by hitting 19 of 28 shots from the field, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range, and also had six assists, four rebounds and two steals in 44 minutes.
James was unable to watch Durant's performance because the Heat were traveling to Charlotte after they snapped a three-game losing streak in Philadelphia. James had 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in the win against the 76ers. He also scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.
It didn't take long for him to learn how much his effort paled in comparison to Durant's epic night.
|One day after watching Kevin Durant erupt for 54 points, LeBron James said, "I love when I see K.D. do something like that. It gives me an incentive."|
"I do a lot of checking and seeing what guys have done overnight," James said of keeping up with the performances of other players. "After every game, I always go ... and see what guys did. I didn't have to look too far to see what K.D. did last night. As soon as I looked at my phone, a family member of mine said, 'K.D. had 54, you only had 21. You stink.' So, there it is."
James entered Saturday averaging 25.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists. He is shooting a career-high 58.6 percent from the field, but his other numbers are slightly down from his other MVP seasons. James dismisses the notion that he has been coasting in some areas this season, specifically on defense.
James and Durant have been friends for years and have spent time training together in the offseason. Durant has repeatedly talked about how he is tired of finishing second to James, who has beaten him out for MVPs and also led the Heat past the Thunder in the 2012 Finals in five games.
Durant also took on Dwyane Wade in a social media dispute before the start of this season, after he suggested Wade shouldn't be considered a top-10 player in the league ahead of former Thunder teammate and current Houston Rocket guard James Harden.
But that doesn't stop James from appreciating the prolific pace Durant has been on lately.
"Once a scorer like that gets going, you ain't going to stop him," James said. "I saw like the last 20 points he had, and they were all contested jumpers. He was hitting ... barely touching the net. When you're in a zone like that, it doesn't matter as a defender. There's nothing you can do about it. It was a big-time, big-time game for him."
James and Durant have the first of their two regular season matchups on January 29 when the Thunder visit the Heat.