LeBron James believed he could win every time he qualified for the NBA Finals.
Several times he actually had little chance. His first and last appearances in Cleveland ended in sweeps, surpassing the teams of the Cavaliers, directed by San Antonio in 2007 and Golden State in 2018.
In his 10th NBA final, he sees his first opportunity with the Los Angeles Lakers in the same way he sees his trips to Cleveland and Miami.
“The game is won between the four lines, not on paper,”
This time it will be his team.
With Anthony Davis and James, the Lakers are armed with the same type of firepower they had when Shaquille O’Neill and Kobe Bryant led them to the first of three consecutive titles 20 years ago.
The two first-team selections in the All-NBA team combined 60 or more points 20 times in their first season together, and the Lakers won 19.
They are now set to win the Lakers’ first title in a decade.
“Now we want to make sure we finish this thing right,” Davis said.
James showed almost no relegation at 35, tying his career high with four triple doubles in those playoffs. He averages 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists, a number that no player has reached in his first 15 games of a season.
Davis was just as dominant, right in his mid-career after a season of 29.6 points, followed only by Michael Jordan (33.4) and Alan Iverson (29.7) among players who have appeared in at least 25 games.
The heat, with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler securing a strong defense, could take one of them away. No one stops both.
The Lakers’ role players give them a lot of support – from tested veterans in the playoffs Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and Danny Green, to newcomers like Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso. Los Angeles shot 49.8% as a team, at the top of the season.
The Lakers also limit the teams to 106.5 points, the third lowest in the playoffs, and the Heat may be the least explosive team they will face. Portland had Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Houston followed with NBA leaders James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and Denver boasted Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the first two players to share playoff points.
Los Angeles knocked out all three teams in five games.
Once they did, thoughts turned to the right way to limit what was a challenging season for the Lakers. The pre-season trip to China came after Houston CEO Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Democratic protesters in Hong Kong. Bryant, a franchise icon, died in a helicopter crash in January. The coronavirus pandemic stopped the season and forced players to be absent 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, man, it’s a great opportunity. Take full advantage of it and stay in the moment, ”Howard said. “You know, even after we won the Western Conference finals, I wanted to be like, well, that’s not just the goal of winning the Western Conference finals. The goal is to win the championship. “
They will. Lakers at five.
Brian Mahoney is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at bmahoney (at) ap.org
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports