When LeBron James woke up from his pregame nap, he sent his teammates a text.
It was hours before they took the floor against the Miami Heat for Game 4 of the NBA Finals and he wanted them to know how much this game meant to him.
He called it a “must-win,” a term he sparingly uses.
“I just felt that vibe,” James said. “I felt that pressure. I felt like for me, personally, this was one of the biggest games of my career and I just wanted to relay that message to my teammates, what type of zone I was in, what type of moment it was, because I just know how great of a team that we’re playing against.”
The Lakers went on to beat the Heat, 102-96, to take a 3-1 series lead. They’re one win away from their first championship since 2010.
James said he felt compelled to send that message after the Lakers’ lackluster performance in Game 3 when Jimmy Butler danced around their stagnant defense en route to a 40-point, 13-assist and 11-rebound performance in their 115-104 loss.
He knew the Heat was feeling confident.
And he wanted the Lakers to be ready.
They responded with a hard-fought, defense-first game in which there were nine lead changes, nine ties and neither team ever built a double-digit advantage.
The Lakers pulled ahead down the stretch.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a three-pointer followed by a layup on consecutive possessions — both off of assists from James — to turn a two-point Lakers advantage to seven points, 95-88, with 2 minutes left.
Anthony Davis put the nail in the coffin with 39.5 seconds remaining after making a three-pointer to give the Lakers a nine-point lead, 100-91.
James said he didn’t hesitate to pass the ball to Caldwell-Pope with