Mon | Oct 26, 2020

LeBron’s Lakers meet Heat in NBA Finals

Published:Wednesday | September 30, 2020 | 12:19 AM
James
James
Butler
Butler
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (AP):

LeBron James wants to beat the Miami Heat. The Miami Heat want to beat LeBron James.

These shouldn’t be surprising notions to anyone, not with a title at stake.

Those looking for more acrimony than that, well, they may be disappointed.

The NBA Finals start tonight and the James vs Miami story line is shaping up as little more than a meeting of the mutual admiration society, albeit with a championship at stake. James is looking to bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to basketball’s mountaintop for the first time since 2010 and the Heat are looking to cap a surprising season with their fourth crown.

“I’m here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to compete for a championship,” James said on the eve of Game 1 of his 10th finals, where he’ll be seeking ring number four.

James was asked any number of different ways yesterday about his time in Miami, his thoughts on coach Erik Spoelstra, his opinion of Heat President Pat Riley. He never took the bait, speaking only with fondness for the four years he spent in Miami and the two titles the Heat won during that stay.

“Being a part of that culture allowed me to grow, allowed me to see what it takes to not only compete for a championship, but also to win a championship,” James said. “So, it definitely put me in a position where I knew what it took. I saw what it took. But also, I fit that culture as well because of how hard I worked. It was a perfect match for those four years.”

James left Miami and the finals have been an almost-annual stop since; this is his fifth appearance in the title round in the six seasons that followed his Heat tenure. It’s the first time Miami have been back since he left. During that time, the Heat did some rebuilding a couple of times and used 60 different players in those six seasons. Miami also endured the departure, return and then retirement of Dwyane Wade and the premature end of Chris Bosh’s career for health reasons.

Spoelstra is designing a game plan with hopes of keeping James in some sort of check, of course. That doesn’t mean he didn’t speak with reverence when asked about the Lakers’ best player.

TESTAMENT TO GREATNESS

“I just think it is a true testament to his greatness to be able to sustain this type of success year in, year out,” Spoelstra said. “Different uniforms, new players and new teams going after him. It’s a real testament to that commitment. He’s seen everything. At this point in his career, it’s just about winning. And his ability to do what he does at his age is incredibly uncommon. But there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to be able to maintain that.”

Both teams haven’t endured much trouble in the bubble: The Heat and Lakers have each gone 12-3 in the playoffs. The Heat are the first number 5 seed to make the finals and weren’t exactly surprised to see that James is the one standing between them and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“It’s been like this for a very long time. If you want to win, you’re going to have to go through a LeBron James-led team,” said Heat forward Jimmy Butler, who’ll be going to his first finals in his first Miami season.

Play-Off STATS (PER GAME)

(per game)

BUTLER:

Points - 20.7

Assists - 4.5

Rebounds - 5.7

Steals - 1.9

Minutes - 36.5

JAMES:

Points - 26.7

Assists - 8.9

Rebounds - 10.3

Steals - 1.3

Minutes - 35.0