DALLAS – After searching for it ourselves the past 36 hours, we didn’t think there was any extra pressure that could be heaped upon the combatants in Game 5 of The Finals tonight at American Airlines Center.
After all, the series is tied 2-2 and both the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat realize the gravity of the moment — the winner of this games moves just four quarters from claiming the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Then LeBron James walked out of the Heat locker room this morning, slid up against a wall and began to unload about his feeling about what he would go on to call the “biggest game of my life.”
James sent out a late-night tweet — “Now or Never!!” — the day before that should have served notice of the way he spent the time between his humbling Game 4 performance and the hours leading up to tonight’s game.
“It was a personal message to myself,” James said after the Heat’s shootaround practice. “That’s just how I was feeling at that time, honestly. It was just a personal message to myself and had nothing to do with anyone else besides myself. I was just in a zone at that point … this is a big game, probably the biggest game of my life, well, not probably, it is. And I’m approaching it that way.”
The Heat need James in a zone tonight, particularly in the fourth quarter if this game goes according to the same script as the last three in this series. They’ve been decided by a total of seven points, with the Mavericks getting late-game heroics from Dirk Nowitzki in their two wins. Much has been made of Nowitzki’s 44 fourth-quarter points in this series, which dwarfs the nine James has scored over that same stretch.
James said he tried to escape the furor over his Game 4 performance, the eight points (which included none in the fourth quarter) going down as his worst playoff showing to date, by going to dinner. But that didn’t work. Channel surfing in his hotel room proved fruitless, as well. So he turned to the Internet, where he said he caught up on some reading about his own trials and tribulations from those of us charged with documenting his every move during these days.
“You just try to stay up and watch TV, and there is never anything on TV,” James said of the ways in which you try to escape from the moment. “Get on the Internet and read you guys’ columns. Those are fun. I’ve seen a lot of them. They’re pretty good. Appreciate it.”
James isn’t the only member of Miami’s Big 3 putting a huge psychological stake in tonight’s game. “I’m more ready for Game 5 of a 2-2 series than I’ve ever been in my career,” Dwyane Wade said. And Chris Bosh insists that the Heat will show that they “want it more,” than the presumably equally ambitious Mavericks.
“This is what it’s about,” James said. “This is what we all dreamed about being in this moment. No one ever said it was going to be easy. We haven’t had anything easy all year. I haven’t had anything easy all year. So it’s there. We’re looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to. And this is what I’ve been dreaming about my whole life.”
This game didn’t need any extra hot sauce. There is plenty of drama to go around — it’s the Mavericks’ home finale and the Heat’s 100th game of the season (preseason games excluded), not to mention the latest chapter in the legacy series being written by Nowitzki and James — for both sides.
And now, thanks to LeBron, there’s a little more!