Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
LeBron James led the Lakers to season-defining wins over the NBA-best Bucks and rival Clippers this weekend, all while playing lockdown defense on reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard — the two strongest challengers to his throne in recent years.
Why it matters: James' weekend statement may have changed the course of the MVP race, which Antetokounmpo — who will miss at least two games with a sprained knee — has been heavily favored to win for months.
The big picture: If James leapfrogs Antetokounmpo in the season's final weeks, he will clinch his fifth league MVP, tying him with Michael Jordan for second all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six).
By the numbers: James, who became the third player in NBA history to reach 34,000 points, is on pace to average 25+ points per game for a record 16th season. The next closest are Jordan, Karl Malone, and Kobe Bryant — all with 12 such seasons.
What to watch: A Lakers-Clippers playoff series — which has never happened — would be a blessing from the basketball gods. But as yesterday proved, the Lakers would have home-court advantage in all seven games, underscoring the Clippers' need for their own home.