Kevin Durant is the NBA's reigning and deserving MVP, but LeBron James is often referred to as the best player in basketball. On Monday night, the Miami Heat superstar proved why he deserves that title even without the hardware to prove it.
In Game 4 of his team's Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center, James scored 49 points to lead Miami to a 102-96 win and a 3-1 series advantage. That total stands as the highest mark of the 2014 postseason, matches his playoff career high and sets a new franchise playoff high. The loudest highlight came on this fastbreak dunk in the second quarter:
The performance was as essential as it was explosive. With the result not decided until the final seconds, the Heat needed all but one of these 49 points — a free throw on the game's final possession — to secure the victory. James was also consistent, splitting his scoring between halves with 25 in the first and 24 after the break, with a quarter-high of 15 in the third period.
LeBron's efficiency deserves notice, too. He went 16-of-24 from the field, 3-of-6 from the 3-point line, and 14 of 19 from the line for an incredible average of 2.04 points per shot. His shot chart shows how effectively he was able to get to the rim and maximize every attempt:
It's also not as if the Nets allowed James to shoot at the expense of giving his teammate's opportunities. While Paul Pierce earned headlines prior to Game 4 by requesting the defensive assignment on LeBron, head coach Jason Kidd and his staff employed several looks, including double-teams and occasional triple-teams. The Brooklyn defense certainly could have been better, but the Nets were not oblivious to what was going on. James, as usual, was simply too good.
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