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SPORTS: Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder vs. Heat Highlighted By Superstar Showdown

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They've been the two best players on Earth for a few years.

LeBron James, king of the basketball world, has led the Miami Heat to back-to-back NBA titles.

Kevin Durant, challenger to the throne, is playing like a guy that's ready to end James' reign.

And the performance of each star's team has matched their individual dominance.  In the past three seasons, Miami is a combined 144-48, while OKC is 143-51 – almost identical.

Those records are good for No. 1 and No. 2 in the NBA, but that's not all these two powers have accomplished. Here's what else has transpired over that time:

• Miami 84-12 home record (Best in the NBA)

• OKC 63-34 road record (Best in the NBA)

• Kevin Durant has averaged 28.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game

• LeBron James has averaged 26.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game

• Thunder is 0-5 in Miami (Including NBA Finals)

Even though the two teams have dominated their respective conferences, Miami has held the mental edge. After winning four straight NBA Finals games and sweeping the season series last year, the Heat enters Wednesday's showdown having won six straight overall against OKC.

But things feel different this season, and both teams know it.

With Russell Westbrook's absence, Durant has taken his level of play to an entire new level.  KD has scored 30+ points in 11 straight games, becoming only the 5th player in last 30 seasons to do so.

What Durant has done is impressive, but what he has a chance to do is historic.

Only seven players in NBA history have ever finished a season with a Player Efficiency Rating better than 30 (record is Wilt Chamberlain's 31.8 in 1962-63). Durant's current PER is 31.2 and it seems like he gets better every night.

Thunder forward Nick Collison talked about Durant's recent play and how special it will be to see the league's two best players go at it.

"Of course it's great for the fans to see those two guys on the court," Collison said. The run (Durant's) on is really impressive. There are very few people in the world with the ability to do what he's doing. He's playing great — the best I've ever seen him play."

When asked about the importance of containing Durant, James emphatically indicated that it's the Heat's No. 1 goal.

"It's not secondary, it's first-dary," James joked. "Absolutely. He's one of the toughest covers for me, individually. It's the game between the game. You wanna win, but you also wanna do your part on who you're going against."

James was quick to brag on his former US Olympic teammate, making a bold statement about the Thunder star.

"In his short career, he's (already) one of the greatest scorers to ever play our game," James declared. "I like going against the best, and he's right up there."

But don't let James' sweet talk fool you. He also had this to say earlier this month:

"I get jealous sometimes when I look over at KD and he's like 16-for-32 (from the field) and then 14-for-34. ... man," James told ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh. "But there are games where I have it going, and then at the end of the game, I'm like, damn, I shot just 12-for-16? Why don't I get up at least six or seven more? I definitely notice it."

Gimme a break. James has two championship rings and lives on the beach – he isn't jealous of Kevin Durant. But that doesn't mean he isn't threatened by him.

Durant is the clear-cut MVP favorite as we enter the second half of the season; the aforementioned numbers speak for themselves.

But when the four-time MVP-winner and South Beach's most famous resident publicly calls out Durant for volume-shooting his way the front of the MVP race, things get a lot more interesting.

Adding to the chippiness is the Durant/Wade feud from this past fall when KD was asked to list the NBA's top 10 players. Durant included former teammate James Harden but failed to list Wade.

Wade responded by posting a message that was clearly directed at Durant, saying in part: "Note to self. Make him respect your place in history ... again."

Durant took to Twitter to respond, tweeting in response: "Show me don't tweet me."

This edition of the Thunder certainly has a different feel. This is a no-nonsense group that plays with an edge. OKC is growing up, just the way Miami did two seasons ago.

The Heat's maturation came during game six of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when LeBron's 45 points and 15 rebounds signaled a coming-of-age for the King. Miami followed James' lead and has had a different attitude ever since, turning from a squad that couldn't get over the hump to a team with multiple rings that knows it's better than everyone else.

Led by James, Miami is still the bully of the league. But Durant and the Thunder finally appear ready to fight back.

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