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Basketball

James focused on ultimate prize, not records

Miami Heat's LeBron James passes a ball over his shoulder during a team practice for the NBA basketball finals in Miami June 18, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

MIAMI: LeBron James couldn’t repeat another 30-point performance but then he didn’t have to Sunday, receiving plenty of support from his teammates as Miami came from behind to win game three of the NBA finals.

James’ streak of consecutive 30-point games came to an end but he scored eight of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter as Miami beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 91-85 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

His five-straight 30-point games is a Heat post-season record but James said he’s more worried about making up for last year’s failures than breaking records.

“Last year I didn’t make enough game-changing plays, and that’s what I kind of pride myself on,” said the three-time league MVP. “I didn’t do that last year in the finals.

“I’m just trying to make game-changing plays, and whatever it takes for our team to win.”

Miami is in the finals for the second straight year after losing in 2011 to the Dallas Mavericks.

James is chasing his first NBA title, unlike some of his Miami teammates, who won the championship in 2006 while James was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It was great to see us able to close this game out tonight,” James said. “We had a comfortable lead, but they made a run.

“They made a quick run, cut the lead to one, and then I was able to hit Chris [Bosh] for a layup.

“He got fouled, made two free throws, was able to get a stop, and that’s what it’s about. It’s about us just trying to step up when our teammates need us the most.”

Sunday’s win wasn’t a classic by any means. Some would even call it ugly.

The Heat shot just 37 percent from the field and finished with 12 turnovers, one more than the Thunder. They also had to overcome a 10-point deficit but James said part of what makes them so successful is their ability to win games by coming from behind.

“We always feel like we want to grind out games,” James said. “No matter how well we may be shooting the ball from the outside, no matter how many layups or dunks or fast break points we get, we always feel it’s going to be a grind-out game, especially since we’re playing against a great opponent.”

The Heat have now come back six times in the 2012 post-season after being down by double digits.

Dwyane Wade, who finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in game three, said it was nice to know they can overcome huge deficits – but admits they are not doing themselves any favors.

“We are a pretty good team when we are desperate,” Wade said. “But that is a dangerous game to play. You don’t want to play that game, especially against this team.”

Bosh also contributed to the win with another double double of 10 points and 11 boards. He said Miami is motivated by what happened last year when they lost to the Mavericks on their home court in six games.

“Really, every day we remind ourselves, we think of that pain that we experienced last year,” Bosh said. “We carry that pain with us. We think about it every day, and that really helps us to succeed in this series.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 19, 2012, on page 14.

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