“King” James and the Los Angeles Lakers were ready for their coronation, but Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat had other ideas.
Now, Lakers superstar LeBron James says, the key to closing out the Heat for a first NBA title in a decade on Sunday will be focusing not on lifting the trophy but on winning a single game.
Jimmy Butler is the 1st player in NBA Finals history to record 35+ points, 10+ rebounds, 10+ assists and 5+ steals. He is just the 2nd player to reach those numbers in NBA playoffs history: Gary Payton 35 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, and 6 steals in May 2000 (First Round). pic.twitter.com/j3bdzQeK8P
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) October 10, 2020
“Listen, at the end of the day, you don’t predetermine anything and you take the game as it’s going and you play,” said James, who scored 40 points in his team’s 111-108 loss to Miami that saw the Heat claw back to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
“You play each quarter, you play each possession and you live with the results,” he said. “You don’t think about what could happen at the end of the game and things of that nature. You don’t get caught up in the aftermath.
“You have to live in the moment and prepare yourself each and every possession, because if you start to wander and your mind starts to go, you make a mistake.
“One thing about this team that we are playing, they make you pay for every mistake.”
The Lakers took the court in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida, looking every inch a team poised to finish off their underdog rivals.
They opted for their black “Mamba” uniforms in honor of late Lakers great Kobe Bryant – kit in which they were undefeated in four contests.
Star forward Anthony Davis, playing in his first championship series, sported gold shoes for the occasion, but the gold Larry O’Brien Trophy stayed in its case as Butler out-dueled James down the stretch.
Now the Heat have the chance to match a feat only one other team has managed before and rally from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship series.
James himself was the protagonist when the Cleveland Cavaliers battled back from 3-1 down to topple the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
He said this Heat team, seeded a lowly fifth in the Eastern Conference and missing key contributor Goran Dragic who was injured in game one, has the same ability as those Warriors to capitalize on every Lakers miscue.
“It’s the same as when I was playing against Golden State all those years, you make a mistake, they make you pay,” James said. “So we have to understand that.”
Two late errors proved costly in the tight back and forth battle.
After Danny Green, fed by James, missed a good look at a three-pointer, Markieff Morris corralled the rebound with just over two seconds remaining, but fired the ball out of bounds with a bad pass.
“We’ve got to be better,” said James, who is seeking a fourth NBA title with a third team after winning two with Miami and one with Cleveland.
He said the Lakers must also stay “even-keeled.”
“You stay in the moment,” he said. “How we make the adjustments and how we learn from tonight, tomorrow in our film session and when we get together and prepare ourselves for Sunday, will show the difference.”