LeBron is on LeBrink, a victory from winning his first NBA title. Appearing relaxed Wednesday, he said he has recovered well from the cramping issues that knocked him out of Game 4.
He apologized for his performance in last year’s NBA Finals and what he called his immaturity toward fans and media afterward. He appears completely different now, more comfortable on and off the court and seeming to have figured out everything it takes to become a champion.
He’s almost there, but won’t think about it until his Miami Heat have picked up one more victory.
“As crazy as it sounds, I haven’t got caught up in it,” James said. “I won’t get caught up in it because I’m not going to let, you know — the human nature is to automatically think about after we win it, what are we going to do. I’m not there. I won’t get there until those zeros hit and I see that we won.
“I’m the leader of this team, and I’m not comfortable right now. I’m comfortable in my game, but I’m not going to be comfortable until we seal this thing.”
The Heat have three cracks at it, starting with Game 5 on Thursday on their home floor. No team has overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals, but the Thunder already wiped out one big hole just one round ago in the Western Conference finals.
“I’ve been down 0-2 against San Antonio and everybody said it was over then, and we won,” Kevin Durant said. “But it’s over with. That’s old. It’s a new series. We’ve got to be ready to come out here and try to get this Game 5 tomorrow. We’ll see what happens. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting to the end and hopefully we can take this thing back to the crib.”
The series was hyped as a James-Durant matchup, the league’s MVP against its runner-up and scoring champion, the winner earning the right to be called best player in the game. They are fairly even in the box score but James is far ahead in the only place that matters to them: the scoreboard.
And somewhat surprisingly, he’s gotten more help from supporting players, from Shane Battier’s 17 points in Game 2 to Mario Chalmers’ 25 points in Game 4, including a huge basket after James was forced from the game for good. Meanwhile, Durant has watched Sixth Man of the Year James Harden miss 16 of his 20 shots in Miami.
“You know, everyone was excited to finally get an opportunity to see two of the best players go head to head, myself and KD, but for me personally, it’s not a head-to-head battle,” James said. “When I go out on the floor, I do want to dominate the guy in front of me, but this is a team game, and I have all the trust in my teammates, and I try to do everything that needs to be done individually to help our team win.”
He couldn’t do it in either of his first two finals appearances, his Cleveland Cavaliers getting swept by the Spurs in 2007and the Heat losing to Dallas in six games last year.
James joined the Heat in 2010 after Miami convinced him that he would have enough help to win a championship — more specifically, that he wouldn’t have to carry the load by himself, like he did so many times in Cleveland over his first seven seasons. The Heat were keeping Dwyane Wade, adding Chris Bosh and filling out the roster with a mix that would be best described as unconventional.