LeBron James believed he could win every time he advanced to the NBA Finals.
On some occasions, he actually had very little chance. His first and last appearance in Cleveland ended in the bushes, overtaking the Cavaliers teams moved by San Antonio in 2007 and Golden State in 2018.
In his 10th NBA Finals, he sees his first opportunity with the Los Angeles Lakers, the same way he saw his trips to Cleveland and Miami.
“The game is won between four lines, not won on paper,” James said. “At the end of the day, when I lost in the final, the better team won because they played well, they were more prepared and they did what they had to do to win those four matches.”
This time, this is going to be his team.
Along with Anthony Davis, James, the Lakers are equipped with the same type of firepower when Shakeel O’Neill and Kobe Bryant placed them first in three straight titles 20 years ago.
The two first-team selections on the All-NBA team have participated in their first season together for 60 or more points combined 20 times, and the Lakers have won 19.
They are now set to win the Lakers’ first title in a decade.
“Now we want to make sure that we get this thing right,” Davis said.
James featured fewer than 35 draws, taking his career high with four triple-doubles in these playoffs. He averages 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists, the number one player has never reached through his first 15 games of the postseason.
Davis has been prominent in his career as an average of around 29.6 points, ranking only among players appearing in at least 25 matches between Michael Jordan (33.4) and Alan Iverson (29.7).
The Heat, with a strong defense by Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, may be able to take one away. Nobody is stopping both.
The Lakers’ role players have offered plenty of support from playoff-tested veterans Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and Danny Green to newcomers like Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso. Los Angeles is shooting 49.8% as a team, topping the postseason.
The Lakers are also limiting teams with 106.5 points, the third-fewest in the playoffs, and the Heat may be the least explosive squad they have made. Portland had Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Houston with NBA scoring leaders James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and Denver boasted the top two players Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic in total points in the playoffs.
Los Angeles knocked out all three teams in five games.
Once he pondered, it changed the proper way to consider what a challenging season for the Lakers. A presidency visit to China became turbulent after a tweet by Houston general manager Daryl Morey who supported democratic protesters in Hong Kong. Franchise icon Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in January. The coronovirus epidemic halted the weather and forced players to stay away from their families for months when it resumed.
Four more wins and the Lakers can go home to them.
“Every day since we’ve been in the bubble, it’s like, man, this is a great opportunity. Take full advantage of it and stay in the moment, ”said Howard. “You know, even after winning the Western Conference Finals, I wanted everything to be alright, it’s not just a goal of winning the Western Conference Finals. The goal is to win the championship.”
They will. Laser in five.
Brian Mahoney is a national basketball writer for the Associated Press. Write to him at bmahoney (at) ap.org
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