The Los Angeles Lakers are in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010.
That was the year the Lakers won title number 16. After a long drought by franchise standards, the purple and gold are back in the final four, and now await the winner of the LA Clippers-Denver Nuggets series.
LeBron James was dominant in game 5, pouring in 29 points to go along with 11 rebounds and seven assists, but it was a destructive opening eight minutes that set the tone, as James scored eleven points and the Lakers ran up an early 22-point lead.
"For me mentally, I come in with the same desperation as the opponent. I understand that in a close out game the team that is down is going to play desperate and they're going to play to their best ability," James said postgame of his mentality heading into close out games.
"If you allow that to happen throughout the course of a 48 minutes game they are going to extend the series. I'm not saying I'm always successful in closing out the series but that's my mindset. My mindset is to be just as desperate as my opponent when I approach the game, when I'm out on the floor and then live with the results."
The early onslaught allowed James to put his feet up in the fourth quarter, with only 30 minutes required on the night with the game well in hand.
Despite the impressive offensive performance that included a Lakers franchise playoff record 19 made triples, the defensive side of the ball was on James' mind.
LBJ propels LAL to WCF! ✨@KingJames' 29 PTS, 11 REB, 7 AST help the @Lakers win Game 5 and advance to the Western Conference Finals!#LakeShow #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/P9zHPgCu0g- NBA (@NBA) September 13, 2020
"From day one coach [Frank] Vogel and the coaching staff said we need to be the best defensive team in the league and we took that to heart."
"We are hitting our stride at the right time and that's the postseason. I think for us we continue to get better and better throughout this postseason run and we want to continue this in the next round."
Since joining the Lakers, James has often pointed to the winning culture the franchise has developed over it's history, diving into the meaning of this current run to him personally.
"I know what my name and my stature and what I've done in this league comes with when I decide to join a franchise," James said.
"I know what my name comes with, it comes with winning. I take that responsibility to the utmost [more] than anything because I'm a winner, and I've always been a winner. From the first time I ever played organised basketball i was taught the game the right way from my little league coaches, they taught me how to play the game, play for my teammates, it's never about you and the true definition of there is no 'I' in team.
"I was able to win doing that and just learning the game from nine years old all the way until I became a professional at eighteen and I won at every level so it's always kind of worked for me."
Just eight wins away from another championship, James is thriving on the potential opportunity to return the Lakers to their usual glory.
"I understand the Laker faithful and what they've felt or maybe gone through over the last decade of not being in the postseason and not competing for championships or whatever the case may be. I took that responsibility as well.
"I'm happy to be a little part of it and the rest of my ball club and the rest of the coaching staff and everybody that has put the sacrifice in trying to get this franchise back to trying to compete for a championship which we've done all year."
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