LeBron James has never been here before.
For the first time, he’s one win from a championship.
“I have a job to do,” James said Wednesday. “And my job is not done.”
The job may get done tonight, when the Miami Heat – up 3-1 in the series – plays host to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Even after leaving Game 4 late with a cramp, James is on the cusp of finally becoming a champion. He was swept in his first Finals trip in 2007, then he and the Heat fell in the 2011 title series in six games.
After countless ups and downs, the 804th game of his career may be the one that ends his title quest.
“I have no idea what I’ll say before we go out there,” said James, who got treatment again Wednesday but said soreness that followed the cramps in his left leg was easing. “It kind of just comes to me when I’m getting ready to go out there and stand on the floor. But hopefully whatever I say will inspire our guys to go out and give a good show.”
The Thunder, which stands on the brink of elimination, has history against it as well.
No team in Finals history has rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to even force as much as a Game 7. But Oklahoma City’s losses have been by four, six and six points.
A play here, a bounce there, things look a whole lot different. And that’s why the Western Conference champions are conceding nothing.
“We didn’t get here just to make it here and say we did,” Thunder star Kevin Durant said. “We made it to the Finals. We want to come in here and we want to try to get a title. It’s all about keep competing until that last buzzer sounds, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The 2012 Heat could become the third team since the NBA Finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985 to sweep the three games at home. The 2004 Detroit Pistons did it – as did the 2006 Heat. Miami’s rally from 17 points down in Game 4 set a team record for biggest playoff comeback. It was the Heat’s seventh comeback from double digits this season. Westbrook’s 43 points in Game 4 was the highest single-game total in the Finals since Dwyane Wade scored 43 for Miami in Game 5 of 2006 against Dallas. The Magic hired Rob Hennigan to be the team’s new general manager. Hennigan spent the past four seasons with Oklahoma City, including the past two seasons as the Thunder’s assistant general manager/player personnel. Prior to joining the Thunder, Hennigan spent four seasons with the Spurs. The Hornets traded forward Trevor Ariza and center Emeka Okafor to the Wizards for former SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round draft pick. Lewis is entering the last season of a $118 million, six-year contract and could be a candidate for the NBA’s amnesty clause, meaning he may not end up playing for New Orleans if the team chooses to cut him loose in order to clear space under the salary cap.