What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Mark Medina discusses how mental health and the stresses of being inside the NBA bubble has actually become an issue players are discussing as the playoffs press on.


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.– LeBron James recognized the moment.

And as he frequently does, he caught it.

James and the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t want to play a sixth video game in the series and give the Houston Rockets a sliver of hope that a Video game 7 may be possible.

So they functioned with a persuasive 119-96 triumph over the Rockets in Video game 5 on the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday.

With a possibility to send out the Rockets house, James didn’t squander much time developing his imprint on Game 5. He scored 11 of his 29 points in the first quarter as the Lakers opened a 33-11 lead. Ball game got close in the 3rd quarter (65-59), but the Lakers went on 30-10 run and canceled any possibility of a Firecrackers comeback.

James also had 11 rebounds and seven helps.

— U.S.A. TODAY NBA (@usatodaynba) September 13, 2020

In his past 16 games with a possibility to remove an opponent, James has actually won 15 times while averaging 29.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.9 assists and shooting 51.3%from the field and 35.4%on 3-pointers.

” Mentally, I feature the same desperation as the opponent,” James stated. “I comprehend that a closeout game, the group that’s down is going to play very desperate and they’re going to play to their best ability, and if you permit that to take place throughout the course of 48- minute game, they will extend the series.

” Not saying I’m always successful in closing out the series, but that’s my frame of mind. My frame of mind is to be simply as desperate as my opponent when I approach the game when I’m out there on the floor and after that live with the outcomes.”

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It was an essential moment for James as a member of the Lakers. In his first postseason with the storied franchise, he assisted them reach the conference finals for the first time given that 2010, which is also the last time the Lakers won a title.

It is the Lakers’ longest stretch without a champion considering that the 12- year drought from 1988-2000

” I understand the Laker faithful and what they felt or possibly were going through over the– I want to state the last years– of not remaining in the postseason, not contending for champions or whatever the case may be,” James said. “I took that duty also.”

The Lakers are associated with titles, and they signed James in the summer of 2018 with the idea of winning more after a years of bad moves. The franchise success and mystique tempted James there. He appreciates NBA history, and to win a title with the Lakers is meaningful to James.

From 2011-18, James played in eight successive NBA Finals and won 3 titles. However James and the Lakers missed the playoffs last season. They are back in the conference finals with strong opportunity to get reach the Finals.

They are 8-2 in the playoffs, losing the series opener in the first and second rounds before winning the next four video games versus Portland and Houston. They have been the most constant, if not excellent, group in the West.

James has another star together with him in Anthony Davis, who is averaging 27.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and four assists. The Lakers are surrounded by quality function gamers in Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo. They can spread out the floor and hit 3-pointers and play the kind of defense needed to win a title.

The Lakers have the second-best offensive and defensive scores of remaining playoff teams, and they are flexible. If they wish to go little, like the performed in the Houston series, they can do that. If they need to go huge, they can do that, too.

” From day one, coach (Frank) Vogel and the training personnel said they we require to be the best defensive group in the league,” James stated, “and we took that to heart. We had some great months. We had some fantastic months. We had a couple of weeks where we were not that great defensively. However we’re hitting our stride at the correct time which remains in the postseason. We have actually continued to get better in this postseason run so far. We wish to continue that going into the next round.”

James has the appearance and sound of a player who knows what the Lakers can do, and he doesn’t wish to waste the chance.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt


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