The Los Angeles Lakers have already weathered one storm in the NBA Finals, bouncing back from their lackluster showing in Game 3 by beating the Miami Heat 102-96 on Tuesday.
But the hardest part might be yet to come. Holding a 3-1 lead, L.A. now needs to close the series out to win the 17th title in franchise history — a moment of such magnitude it could easily cause some heavy breathing and shaking legs among Lakers players.
And the Heat, with their backs against the wall, will play with a desperation that could make the happenings on the floor volatile. “The next game is going to be the hardest game of the playoffs for us,” said Alex Caruso, who is playing his first-ever postseason.
“Closeout games are always unpredictable. You always get the best shot from the other team, and you know in the Finals this is everything up for grabs. I know Miami is going to come with everything they have. They’re going to give us different looks, keep us off balance.”
The experience of Lakers veterans, such as LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, or JaVale McGee, who have won the NBA championships in their careers will certainly prove crucial in L.A. making the final step toward claiming the Larry O’Brien trophy.
However, James too has been experiencing some nervousness during the Miami series.
Ahead of Game 4, he felt the need to emphasize the importance of the encounter and sent his teammates a text underlaying it was a must-win clash. “I felt that vibe. I felt that pressure. I felt like for me personally, this was one of the biggest games of my career,” he said.
“I just wanted to relay that message to my teammates, the type of zone I was in, the type of moment it was, and the kind of team we were playing against. After the Game 3 win, that confidence they had, the confidence they still have even after tonight’s loss. They are just a gritty, so damn-well-coached team.”
James enjoys tactical ‘chess match’ with Heat
Despite all the pressure, James said he still enjoys the challenge of finding the right game plan and searching for adjustments ahead of every playoff game. “That’s the best part,” he said after Game 4 against Miami, the 258th postseason game of his career.
“I get so excited — like right now, I’m excited about our meeting tomorrow watching film and breaking that down and seeing things that we can do better. Seeing things that we did do well. Thinking about the adjustments that they possibly or will do because I know Spo going into Game 5. That’s the best part about it. It’s a chess match.”
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