East MVP of the Second Trimester

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East MVP of the Second Trimester: LeBron James, Heat

You're kidding, right?

This is even easier than the West, because the list of candidates in the East is truly one name deep.

And one name is all we need, when it’s LeBron James, to set up a tasty MVP duel to consume us over the final 47 days of the regular season.

I was convinced that Bron and Kevin Durant, after Tim Hardaway Jr. versus Dion Waiters went at it with such gusto in the rookies-and-sophs appetizer Friday night, were going to take it up a notch in Sunday's real deal. But there really weren't any haymakers traded in New Orleans.

That's OK, though. None of us can complain too much, because they’re sure going toe-to-toe now.

Durant surged into the MVP lead with his repeated detonations in the wake of Russell Westbrook's third knee surgery in a span of eight months. LeBron answered with the huge late 3 to win in Golden State that had everyone buzzing as All-Star Weekend began ... and followed it up with an absolute dismantling of OKC in Miami's first game after the break.

Which I'm sure he quietly enjoyed after all those questions he fielded in New Orleans about Durant's sudden and unexpected lead in the MVP race.

What we're looking at now, as a result, is the best MVP race since, what, Steve Nash versus Shaquille O'Neal in 2005? Or Tim Duncan versus Jason Kidd in 2002?

I’d argue it’ll be better than either of those -- as well as the 2008 battle in which Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett and LeBron all had a shot -- because this one features the two guys who would indisputably top every pundit’s Best Player In The Game list.

Buckle up, everyone. Gonna be a fun finish.