LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James got back to his hotel suite after Game 4 of the NBA Finals early Wednesday morning. At 6:30 a.m., he was already tweeting out images to announce to his 47.6 million followers that he was wide-awake.
When the season’s over, he’ll sleep plenty.
Until then, his cycle is going to be a total mess.
Like it or not, the NBA Finals are on hiatus until Friday — the first two-day break in this series between the Lakers and Miami Heat. When Game 5 happens, the Lakers will enter with a 3-1 series lead and on the brink of their 17th NBA championship.
“For me, I mean, at this point in the season, I don’t care about rest,” James said. “I really don’t. I don’t care about sleep. I don’t care about resting throughout the game. … I don’t care about resting because I can rest in a week, max.”
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 7, 2020
Maybe sooner. James’ teams — two in Miami, one in Cleveland — are 3-0 in finals games when they stand a win away from a championship. All-time, his teams are 38-10 in games where they have closeout chances.
Clearly, James doesn’t like to wait when the chance comes to clinch a series.
“They are going to make adjustments. We got to be prepared for it,” Lakers forward Anthony Davis said of the Heat, who are facing an elimination game for the first time in these playoffs. “We’re going to make adjustments. It’s going to be a big two days for us. Come out Game 5 and hopefully finish it off.”
Game 4 on Tuesday night was the first grind-it-out matchup of this series; the Lakers won 102-96, both teams finishing the game with a series-low in scoring and Miami shooting a series-low 42.7% from the floor. Some of that could simply be defenses catching up with offenses, but it also could have been the toll of four highly competitive games taking place in a seven-day span.
“Our guys love competition and love the challenge,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We are here for a purpose. We never expected this to be easy. We’ll just rest and recover. I think everybody could probably use that a little bit. Recalibrate, get back to work on Thursday.”
"I know our group will be ready." – Coach Spo
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 7, 2020
Miami’s Jimmy Butler has played more minutes than anyone in the series, averaging nearly 42 per game. The Heat have been barely able to take him out; Butler has logged 45, 45 and 43 minutes in his last three games, respectively — numbers nobody else in these finals have reached even once.
He isn’t willing to show fatigue.
“Our confidence ain’t going nowhere,” Butler said. “It’s going to stay high, I’m going to make sure that it stays high, because it’s going to have to be at an all-time high to get this next win.”
The Heat could use a couple days off from a health perspective. It remains unclear — doubtful is probably the best word — if point guard Goran Dragic can play anytime soon because of the torn plantar fascia in his left foot. But getting All-Star center Bam Adebayo back from a neck injury for Game 4 was a plus, though he confessed he’s not 100%.
“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 readjust, realign, get some fresh air and get back to the drawing board.”
From the Heat perspective, that is indeed the case.
For the Lakers, the waiting may be the hardest part. The chance at the franchise’s first title in 10 years is looming, and James — who has great respect for Spoelstra, his former Miami coach — is certain that the Heat won’t go out easily.
“I know Spo going into Game 5,” James said. “That’s the best part about it. It’s a chess match.”