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Another MVP for LBJ?

LeBron James Is Pulling Away In NBA MVP Race

It's a short week in the NBA with the All-Star Break arriving after Thursday night's action. On Tuesday, the book will offer Portland at Miami and Phoenix at the Los Angeles Lakers for Live Betting.

As recently as two weeks ago, it appeared the race for NBA MVP was a close one between the Heat's LeBron James and the Thunder's Kevin Durant. However, Durant may have to settle for a fourth-straight scoring title instead - he currently is just behind No. 1 Carmelo Anthony - because James is now clearly in the lead to win his fourth MVP award.

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LeBron was brilliant in Sunday's 107-97 home win over the Lakers, scoring 32 points on 12-for-18 shooting to improve to 13-6 in all-time head-to-head matchups with Kobe Bryant. It was the fifth-straight game in which LeBron scored at least 30 - a franchise record - as well as shoot at least 60% from the field. Michael Jordan never had the 30/60 double in five-straight games. Neither did Larry Bird nor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The only other members of that exclusive club are Adrian Dantley (1972 with Utah) and Moses Malone (1982 with Houston).

How ridiculous has LeBron been? He has made 49 of his past 65 shots from the field overall, with Miami winning all five games (3-2 ATS). That's 75.4%, which for comparison exceeds James' free-throw percentage on the season. Also for comparison, Anthony has had eight games this year with 16 misses, while Kobe has had seven. It's the 10th time James has scored at least 30 in five-straight games, but he has a ways to go to match his career-high of 10 straight set seven years ago.

Expect a big game Tuesday night against the Blazers as James averages 29.2 points in 18 career games versus Portland, one of his top averages against any team. James also likely well remembers his first meeting with the Blazers when he had a season-low 15 points 92-90 loss on January 10. That ended LeBron's streak of 33 straight games with at least 20 points. It was the longest streak to start a season since 1981-82.

Portland outscored Miami 24-10 in the final eight minutes for the big come-from-behind victory. The Blazers also have won four-straight in Miami, and their .783 win percentage (18-5) in south Florida is Portland's highest road win percentage against any team in the NBA.

The Lakers, meanwhile, return home after a season-high seven-game road trip due to the Grammy Awards taking over the Staples Center. L.A. enters this week at 24-28 and 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the West.

The Lakers (now 20/1 to win NBA title) are assured of being under .500 when the February 21 trade deadline arrives. GM Mitch Kupchak says the team won't be trading Dwight Howard, but Pau Gasol could be another matter even though he's out injured for another month or so. The Lakers almost have to win all four games in this homestand to have a realistic chance at the playoffs because L.A has 10 road games and just five at home in March.

On Wednesday, the book offers Bulls at Celtics and Rockets at Clippers. Could that be the final time the Bulls take the court without Derrick Rose? It has been just over nine months since Rose tore his ACL in the first round of last season's playoffs. Rose had surgery on May 12 and doctors then said it would be an 8-12 month recovery period. The former MVP has been participating in full-contract practices. The team has been tight-lipped about Rose, saying only he's on schedule. Chicago returns from the All-Star Break with a game February 19 at New Orleans. It's a lock that the team will want Rose to debut at home, so perhaps circle the February 21 matchup against the Heat. The Bulls are then not home again until February 26.

The season's first half comes to a close Thursday night with two great Live Betting matchups: Heat at Thunder and Clippers at Lakers. LeBron has had Durant's number much as he has Kobe's. James is 8-2 head-to-head against Durant in regular-season matchups. Durant averages 27.9 points in those 10 to LeBron's 27.0, but James is shooting .508 from the field to Durant's .480.

The Thunder lost 103-97 at Miami, which was a 2.5-point favorite, on Christmas Day in their first meeting of the season. Durant had 33 but missed a potential tying three-pointer late. James had 29 points and finished one assist and two rebounds shy of a triple-double. It was OKC's fifth-straight loss to the Heat dating to last year's Finals. Like Miami, the Thunder are rolling entering this week, with four-straight wins by at least 20 points. One more at Utah on Tuesday would break the franchise record, set while the team was still in Seattle.

Check back Thursday for an All-Star Weekend betting preview.

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