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NBA Miami HeatSan Antonio Spurs

NBA Finals Game 3 Preview: LeBron James Has To Maintain Engaged Mentality

LeBron Finals game 3

Bob Donnan – USA Today Sports Images

The Miami Heat were able to even the 2014 NBA Finals on Sunday night against the San Antonio Spurs with a 98-96 victory. After leaving in the fourth quarter of Game 1 due to leg cramps, LeBron James played the role of the catalyst for the Heat’s success in Game 2, leading the charge in a big way.

After a mundane first quarter, James was able to assert himself offensively and ultimately have a monster night. In 38 minutes on the floor, the All-Star forward finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals while shooting 14-of-22 from the floor, 3-of-3 from three and 4-of-5 from the foul line.

In the wake of all that happened regarding LeBron in Game 1, he seemed more than a little perturbed with the way that viewers, fans and the media regarded his situation with the cramps. It seemed like 2011 once again with all of the “LeBron really isn’t that great” talk flowing around on social media and other outlets; he answered that criticism like he did in the 2012 postseason with his performance on the court. However, he can’t lose that mentality as the series shifts to Miami for Game 3.

As James has changed the narrative around him over the past two seasons and back-to-back championships with the Heat, one of the things that he’s shown is a remarkable ability to awaken an inner-monster whenever he feels slighted or is peeved by one thing or another. It’s something that many of the greats throughout the history of the NBA have displayed and LeBron has shown he’s not excluded from that group.

However, now that James has seemingly silenced the criticism that erupted as a result of Game 1, you have to wonder if he needs that extra motivation to approach Game 3 with the same killer-mentality that he did Game 2. He’s shown before that it’s not entirely necessary, but in this big series between two incredibly talented teams that know each other so well, James can’t afford to let off the gas even slightly going forward.

The entire fate of Game 3 for the Heat doesn’t revolve around LeBron. Rashard Lewis and the Heat role players need to keep contributing at high levels in Game 3 and beyond. Dwyane Wade has to be better than he was down the stretch for Miami. The Spurs need their role players to have a bigger impact and to step up when playing away from home. They’ll also need Kawhi Leonard to contribute more on the offensive end.

While all of those things are important for both teams heading into Game 3, there’s nothing more important for the Heat against San Antonio (and in almost any game) than LeBron’s mental approach and how engaged he is. If he can come into Game 3 ready to silence everyone once again, the Heat should be one step closer to a three-peat.

Cody Williams is a Senior Writer with Rant Sports. Follow Cody on Twitter @TheSizzle20, add him on Google and like his Facebook page.