James, Heat on brink of a title

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Oklahoma City’s losses in the last three games were by four, six and six points. A play here, a bounce there, this series might look a whole lot different. And that’s why the Western Conference champions are conceding nothing, especially since things seemed pretty bleak when they were behind 2-0 against a San Antonio team that had won 20 in a row. They went on to become the 15th NBA team to come back from that deficit.

“You know, this group of guys never give up, regardless of what happens,” said Russell Westbrook, who scored 43 points in Game 4. “We’ve been through many different situations throughout this playoffs. Just another task for us. We’ve just got to be ready to play for the next game.”

So will James.

He was his usual self in practice Wednesday, laughing with teammates while shooting a few free throws, looking at ease. And most important to Miami, he was moving without too much pain.

James had to be carried off the court in the fourth quarter of Game 4, unable to walk to the bench. A lot of fluids and rest later, some of the bounce was back in his step on Wednesday.

“I feel a lot better than I did last night. That’s clear,” James said. “I’m still a little (sore) because of the muscles just kind of being at an intense level, very tight. I’m still sore. I was able to get some treatment last night. I was able to get some treatment this morning. … And also with the game being basically at midnight tomorrow night, I have all day tomorrow, too, to prepare. I should be fine by tomorrow night.”

It’s a 9 p.m. tipoff, actually, but the point is made.

By Thursday night, James will be ready for the championship stage. And so will his team. What started on Christmas Day in Dallas, watching the Mavericks hoist the banner that will forever commemorate their championship celebration on Miami’s home floor last year, could end as the perfect turnaround story for the Heat.

Or, it could be the start of another Thunder turnaround. A victory would force a Game 6 back in Oklahoma City, where they are 9-1 this postseason. That celebration that James wouldn’t consider Wednesday would become no sure thing if the Heat have to try to win it on the road.

“Game 5 is a Game 7 for us, you know, and it’s a must-win for them,” James said. “But it’s a must win for us, too, and as a leader of this team, I’ll approach it that way, and hopefully I won’t have to be dealing with cramps tomorrow night.”


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