Lakers’ James relishes NBA Finals ‘chess match’

ORLANDO (AFP) – The hectic pace of the NBA Finals slowed with rest days, but LeBron James’s mind was racing with his Los Angeles Lakers within one game of victory.

“At this point in the season, I don’t care about rest,” James said on Tuesday after the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 102-96 to take a three games to one stranglehold on the best-of-seven championship series.

“I really don’t. I don’t care about sleep. I don’t care about resting throughout the game. I can rest in a week, max.”

With no travel days between rival cities, the NBA Finals have unfolded in the league’s quarantine bubble in Orlando with the first four games in seven days.

A two-day break promised both teams a chance to recover physically, but James said it also offered a chance to ramp up the mental intensity as the Lakers pursue a record-equalling 17th NBA title, but their first since 2010.

“That’s the best part,” James said as he enthused about the prospect of reviewing Game 4 film and honing the Lakers’ strategy.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James is defended by the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler in Game 4 of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. PHOTO: AP

“It’s a chess match,” said James, who fully expects Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to come up with new ways to counter the Lakers. “When you get to this point in your career, having your mind at a high level is so much more than the physical because we’re all great players.

“To be able to think through the game and understand and see the adjustments and try to make plays before plays even seem like they are going to be possible, that’s the best part for me personally.”

A couple of days off might be more of a boon to the Heat, who have battled key injuries in the series.

Bam Adebayo returned from a two-game absence but was less than 100 per cent in Game 4, and it remained unclear if Goran Dragic will make it back this series from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

“I feel like collectively we all need two days off,” Adebayo said. “It’s not just me, it’s not just Goran, but we all need a couple days just to re-adjust, re-align, get some fresh air and get back to the drawing board.”