Game 7 to decide championship winner after hard-fought series.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat tied the NBA finals with a miraculous comeback Tuesday and now they face an even bigger hurdle – a winner-take-all game seven.
Ray Allen hit a three pointer in the final seconds of regulation and James shook off a slow first half to finish with a triple double as the Miami Heat forced a seventh game by beating the San Antonio Spurs 103-100 on Tuesday.
Four time NBA most valuable player James called Thursday’s contest the “biggest game of my life” and said it is just as crucial that he be mentally as well as physically up for the challenge.
“I won’t be too serious,” James said during Wednesday’s practice. “I won’t go into a bunker but I will be mentally sharp, mentally driven and mentally focussed tomorrow night.”
To achieve that, James said the next 24 hours would be spent relaxing at home and watching television with his family and friends. Some of his teammates from his St. Vincent-St. Mary High School team in Ohio flew in for the series.
James, who will marry his high school sweetheart and mother of his two kids in September, said he prepares for games in two ways.
When he wants to get serious he visualises how he is going to make plays on the court, and when he wants to stay loose he sits down and watches TV with his kids, ages eight and six.
“They’re going to make me watch SpongeBob or something at 9:00,” James said.
“You don’t want to think about the game too much,” he added. “It’s probably going to be one of the biggest games, if not the biggest game, of my life.
“But I’m going to just keep it the same way I’ve been doing, and tomorrow night I’ll be able to focus in on the job at hand.
“If I get any sleep tonight, it (game) will be played in my head, us winning.
“I’m going to think about ways I can help the team, certain situations, certain plays that I can get better with.
“I will play game seven in my head from now until tomorrow night.”
James said he didn’t sleep much after Tuesday’s overtime contest. He finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his 11th career playoff triple double. But James also got off to a dreadful start with just nine points in the first half and had some key turnovers and missed clutch shots late in regulation.
The defining moment of game six came with five seconds left in the fourth quarter as Miami’s Ray Allen hit a 25-foot three pointer to tie the game 95-95 and force the overtime. Allen’s three pointer came just seconds after James missed a three-pointer from the same distance but Chris Bosh got the rebound then passed it to the wide open Allen in the corner.
James’ seven-foot jump shot with 1:43 left in overtime gave the Heat a 101-100 lead as they then got key defensive stops from Allen and Bosh to hold on for the win.
Bosh was able to block Tony Parker’s attempted game-winning shot in the last minute of overtime and Allen stole the ball from Manu Ginobili under the basket and drew a foul.
Allen gave the Heat a 103-100 lead by nailing both free throws. Bosh then blocked a three-point attempt by Danny Green at the buzzer to seal the victory as the Heat kept their season alive.
Miami is seeking to become the eighth team to rally from a 3-2 deficit in the finals. Since 1985 — when the league switched to a 2-3-2 series format — no road team has ever won a game seven in the finals.
James, who was born to a 16-year-old single mother, is well versed in NBA history so he knows the significance of the stage he is on.
“I am blessed, man,” he said. “I don’t even know how I got here. I wasn’t supposed to be in the NBA, if you go by statistics and things of me growing up where I grew up.
“Every time I go into my locker room and see the “James” on the back of an NBA jersey, I’m like wow, no criticism can deter me from playing this game because of that.”
James said limiting his mistakes will be crucial down the stretch in game seven as he relishes his latest shot at game-seven heaven.
“I didn’t sleep last night either just thinking about all the plays, especially for me personally, my turnovers I had late in the game,” he said.
“I’ve done that in a few games in the post-season and I’m not too proud about it.
“I know what I can’t do in game seven if we want to win another championship.”