- Tom Haberstroh
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MIAMI -- Heat forward LeBron James has never been this close to an NBA championship, and he's treating Thursday's potential series-clinching Game 5 as though it's the Miami Heat who have their backs against the wall.
"We're coming in with that Game 7 mentality," James said after Thursday's shootaround. "We understand that there's no tomorrow, we have that mindset right now. We're preparing for (Game 5) as if it's our last game."
With the Heat up 3-1 in the Finals, this is uncharted territory for James, but he said he didn't have any extra butterflies or anxiety on Thursday morning despite the opportunity at hand: winning his first championship and everything that comes with it.
"I'm just focused on the game, and everything else will take care of itself," James said. "People are going to have their opinions about me no matter what -- win, lose or draw. That's one thing I can't worry about. People are going to have their opinions about me, what they think about me, what I should do, what I shouldn't do, so on and so on. But for me as a basketball player and for me as a leader, I just have to go out and do what I know I'm capable of doing."
Although James indicated that he didn't feel nervous about Game 5, he also didn't feel any ill effects from his thigh cramp he suffered at the end of Game 4 on Tuesday that forced him to watch the closing minutes from the bench.
"I feel good, ready to go," he said after suggesting that he's reserved his normal treatment in preparation for the game. "I'm looking forward to tonight. It's going to be fun."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra felt that James was moving better on Thursday than he did the day before. The Heat have IV fluids ready in case he suffers another cramp, but Spoelstra doesn't think he'll need it.
"He's not going to miss this moment," Spoelstra said. "It's unfortunate that (the cramp) happened with four minutes to go (in Game 4), but you have to push it to that point where your body can't go anymore. Hopefully it doesn't get to that point (in Game 5)."
James may have received his usual treatment on Thursday, but it included some help from an unusual source: Chris Bosh's house.
Miami's starting center said on Thursday morning, perhaps jokingly, that he brought James a six-pack of Gatorade and salt tablets, an aid that marathon runners and cyclists use for stamina, to keep James hydrated and fully supplied with electrolytes.
"He's going to be good," Bosh said of James.
Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, had no desire to bring some Gatorade for James. Why? Wade's two sons have claimed those already.
"We got all that in the locker room, I'm not bringing that from my house," Wade said. "My kids love Gatorade."
What Wade might need is some coffee, considering he said he had a sleepless night on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's Game 5.
"I didn't feel any different when I woke up, I was tired, no sleep," Wade said. "That's what the Finals bring. Ain't no sleep happening, no good sleep. Just tossing and turning because of the excitement."
There's excitement and anticipation for every one of the Heat players, but a victory would bring no bigger relief for anyone than James, who has been scrutinized for leaving Cleveland for Miami and failing to win a championship yet in his nine-year career.
For the first time since 2006, the Heat are one win from getting their hands on the Larry O'Brien Trophy, a moment that James has been waiting for since childhood.
"It's always been a dream of mine even when I first picked up a basketball and started getting into the history of the game, how great it would be to hold that trophy up some day and be a part of a championship team," James said.
Even though he didn't experience additional anxiety on Thursday morning, James says he knows the work that has to be done and what's at stake.
"It has been a long process, and it's going to continue to be a long process," James said. "I'm in a position now where I can be a part of history."
Heat forward LeBron James has never been this close to an NBA championship before, and he's treating Thursday's potential series-clinching Game 5 as if it's the Miami Heat who have their backs against the wall.