Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James will lead Cleveland into a matchup with defending champion Golden State after back-to-back 41-point performances as the Cavaliers won twice in a row to level the best-of-7 NBA Finals at 3-3.
(LIVE BLOG: 2016 NBA Finals Game 7 – Golden State vs Cleveland)
“I look forward to the challenge. It’s a Game 7. But I don’t put too much more added pressure on it,” James said Saturday. “I’m going to give everything I’ve got to my teammates and my coaching staff and I live with the results.
“It has not always been that way for me, but I think it’s just from my growth. I have matured over the years and I know what’s real and what’s not real.”
James, in his sixth consecutive NBA Finals and seventh overall, is 2-4 so far, both wins coming with Miami in 2011 and 2012 while he lost twice with the Heat and with Cleveland in 2007 and last year.
He could become the first NBA MVP to lose 5 finals, but when asked if it would define his legacy, he simply replied, “No.”
“I still go back on some of the losses I’ve had in my career, not only in just the finals, but even in the post-season, period,” James said. “It’s like, ‘OK, did you give everything that you had? Did you prepare yourself the best way you could have? Did you leave it all on the floor?’
“And if you can tell yourself and look in the mirror and say, ‘Yes,’ then sometimes there are some things you can’t control. You can control what you can control. And the uncontrollable, you can’t allow that to play with you that much.”
James dismissed talk that he might become only the second player to be named the NBA Finals MVP even if the Cavaliers lost, keeping a philosophical attitude about defeat and staying in the moment, even one as exciting as the approaching contest he compared to an NFL Super Bowl.
“To have an opportunity to have one game for it all? You take it. It’s an opportunity, and it’s going to be fun. I’m happy to be able to be a part of it.”
‘Grow as series goes on’
James has scored at least 30 points in each of his past 4 playoff seventh games, one shy of matching the longest such scoring streak set by Elgin Baylor for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1960 to 1966.
An ability to adapt and improve over the course of a series is something James prides himself on.
“I grow as the series goes on,” James said. “I’m fortunate enough to help the series go on. And I start to learn from my mistakes and break into the film and seeing the ways that they’re defending me, the ways they’re defending our team, ways I can be a little more efficient.
“I’ve gotten better as the series has gone on. I’m seeing ways I can be successful out on the floor and I’m just trusting it.”
On Sunday, James could join Michael Jordan as the only players with 40 or more points in three or more NBA Finals games in a row. Jordan had 4 in a row in sparking the Chicago Bulls to the 1993 NBA crown.
The only 40-plus scoring efforts in an NBA Finals seventh game were 42 by Jerry West of the Lakers in 1969 and Baylor with 41 in 1962. – Jim Slater, Agence France-Presse/Rappler
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