Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers have an opportunity to close out their first round series by winning four straight after dropping game one to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers have looked more comfortable as the series has gone on and with the Blazers banged up – star point guard Damian Lillard will not play in game five – it seems likely that the Lakers will end the series and wait for their second round matchup against the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder.
But LeBron James isn’t resting on his laurels. The superstar forward has been on both ends of 3-1 series leads, most notably leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to overcome one in winning the 2016 NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors. As a 17-year veteran, he is aware of how a team could play with their backs against the wall and expects about as much from the Blazers:
LeBron on why he approaches closeout games with the mindset of "if we don't win, I feel like we get sent home" pic.twitter.com/hj0EXeuibz
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) August 25, 2020
Of course, circumstances aren’t exactly the same this time around. Lillard is hurt and unavailable and the Blazers have looked exhausted practically all series after two weeks of what basically amounted to elimination games ahead of the playoffs.
Still, having this mentality will do the Lakers big favors moving forward. James is the leader of the Lakers and has set the tone throughout the season and the series. You could tell he approached game four with the mentality of basically ending the series with blood in the water.
Approaching game five the same way will almost certainly end the series and give the Lakers a bit of an extra rest to nurse their injuries ahead of the second round.