LeBron James seared “desperation” into his mindset.
“For me mentally, I come in with the same desperation as the opponent,” he said. “I understand that in a close-out game, the team that’s down is going to play very desperate, and they’re gonna play to their best ability. If you allow that to happen throughout the course of your 48-minute game, they will extend the series.”
Saturday in Orlando, the Rockets didn’t.
The Lakers eliminated the Rockets 4-1 in dominating fashion, capping their effort with a 119-96 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The series-closing wire-to-wire victories helped them advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010. James now owns a career record of 37-10 in close-out games, having averaged 28.3 points in those outings while shooting 47.8% from the field.
“I know what my name, my stature and what I’ve done in this league comes with -- whenever I decide to join a franchise, either for starting off my first seven years with Cleveland, my four years in Miami, going back to Cleveland four more years, and then coming into this franchise,” James said. “I know what my name comes with, and it comes with winning.
“I take that responsibility to the utmost because I am a winner and I’ve always been a winner from the first time I ever played organized basketball. It’s never about you. So, I understand the Laker faithful, and what they’ve felt and what they’ve been going through the last decade of not being in the postseason, not competing for championships. I took that responsibility as well. So, I’m happy I’m able to [play] a little bit of a part of it, and the rest of my ballclub, the coaching staff and everybody that has put [in] the sacrifice to get this franchise back to competing for a championship, which we’ve done all year.”
LeBron James racked up 27 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists in Game 5.
James racked up 29 points to go with 11 rebounds and 7 assists in Game 5, as he and Anthony Davis (13 points, 11 rebounds) became the first pair of teammates to each average at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff series since the 1961 NBA Finals, when Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan accomplished the feat for the St. Louis Hawks.
“The fact that they’re so cohesive on and off the court really impacts our group’s togetherness and our chemistry,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of James and Davis. “It filters down to the rest of the guys. Both of them have dominant abilities on both sides of the floor, and they’re both willing passers. So, they fit what we’re trying to build here in terms of being a team-first team offensively, and one that’s athletic and gifted, talented and committed on the defensive end. All of those things are leading us to success thus far, and I’m looking forward to seeing how far we can take it.”