LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — LeBron James often says that in order to grow, one has to become comfortable being uncomfortable. He applies that sentiment to his playoff mindset.
“Until the series is completed, I kind of stay on edge, stay locked in on the job at hand,” James said Monday after having a day to digest the Los Angeles Lakers‘ Game 3 loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. “Obviously, no one wants to ever lose. You hate that feeling, especially when you know you didn’t play your best, and I definitely wasn’t at my best [Sunday] night from an individual standpoint. So I take that responsibility, and I take that with a lot of passion and understanding of how I can be much better in the following game.”
James led L.A. with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in Game 3, but he also had eight turnovers. Miami, playing without Goran Dragic (torn left plantar fascia) and Bam Adebayo (neck soreness), drew the series to 2-1 thanks to a 40-point triple-double from Jimmy Butler.
Having done just about everything in 10 Finals appearances — being swept, coming back from down 3-1, losing Game 1 only to win the next four, going up 2-1 only to lose the series in six — James said he has learned to manage his emotions coming off any one game.
“Throughout the postseason, I stay even-keel,” James said. “As I’ve grown in this game and I’ve grown over the years, I kind of stay even-keel, understanding that there’s always another opportunity to get better.”
The Lakers have done a great job of improving following a loss this postseason, going 3-0 in that scenario through the first three rounds of the playoffs. In those games, L.A. scored 114 points per game and outscored its opponents by an average of 12.3 points.
Forward Anthony Davis averaged 33 points on 63% shooting and 8.7 rebounds in those bounce-back wins, and James averaged 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists.
Asked if he feels pressure to return serve to Butler with a big scoring night in Game 4, James said he doesn’t prioritize scoring when it comes to preparing for any one game.
“I’ve never predetermined my game plan throughout my whole career. I’ve never gone into a game saying, ‘OK, I need to score 40 tonight. I need to dominate in the scoring facet … I need to make big shots,'” James said. “I’ve never predetermined my game. Throughout my whole life, I’ve never done that. … I think anytime I’ve ever thought about, ‘OK, I’m going to try to go out and do this,’ it doesn’t happen that way.
“The best thing I can tell you is that I’m always prepared, and I know that I’ve put in the work. I trust that.”
Davis, who proclaimed, “Trust me, we’ll be fine” following the Game 3 loss, said he is keeping his cool coming off the defeat, using an old James postseason trick: staying off his phone.
“The good thing for me [is] I’m not a big social media guy, so I have it, but I don’t really be on it,” he said. “I’m very disciplined to not, especially after nights like [Sunday] night. A lot of people get caught up in the news and the social media and what everybody is saying. But I don’t really care about it too much.”
The Lakers opened training camp more than a year ago, with their vice president of basketball operations and general manager, Rob Pelinka, stating, “I think our biggest opponent is in the mirror.”
Now, with the Lakers just two wins from the title, those words ring as true as ever.
“I think more so than anything, [we] have to get everybody on the same page mentally,” Lakers guard Danny Green said Monday. “Physically, I think we’re fine. Mentally, emotionally, I think guys need to stay in the moment and not look at the light at the end of the tunnel. So we have a job to do. Take it a step at a time, a possession at a time, a day at a time, and it goes from there.”