All eyes turn to LeBron, Durant
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- LeBron James can't erase what happened in his previous two trips to the NBA Finals, but he's in a place where he can admit what went wrong.
On the eve of James and the Heat facing his good friend Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the reigning MVP said he didn't approach last year's series against the Mavericks the right way. James' focus will be different this time, and that could benefit the Heat.
"I played too much to prove people wrong last year instead of just playing my game and doing what needs to be done," James said. "I'm just at ease now. I'm going to play my game, try to do whatever it takes on both ends to make plays and help us win. And at the end of the day, whatever the results happen, I'm going to be satisfied with that."
James had that mentality in the Eastern Conference finals, leading the Heat back from a 3-2 deficit against the Celtics with 76 points and 27 rebounds in the last two games. The Heat will need that James against the younger, deeper and more athletic Thunder, which has lost only three games this postseason.
James wasn't nearly as aggressive against the Mavericks last year as he has been in these playoffs. The Heat led Dallas 2-1 and lost the next three. James, whose Cavaliers were swept by the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals, came up small in the fourth quarter against Dallas and averaged only 17.8 points in the series.
"I didn't play well," James said. "I didn't make enough game-changing plays that I know I'm capable of making, and I felt like I let my teammates down.
"I'm happy, and I'm humbled that I can actually be back in this position less than 12 months later to do a better job of making more plays, more game-changing plays out on the floor on a bigger stage."
This will be the biggest stage Durant, 23, has played on as he makes his first Finals appearance. It's fitting that it's against James and the Heat.
Quietly, in the summer of 2010, Durant re-signed with the small-market Thunder before James held "The Decision" to announce he was taking his talents to South Beach.
Now all eyes will be on Durant and James, the NBA's best scorer against the MVP.
"That's a sexier matchup, I guess," Durant said. "But I don't read newspapers, I don't get on Twitter anymore. I just focus on what I need to do and what we need to do as a team."
Dwyane Wade likes the matchup for Miami. He referenced the Dallas series and said Durant could bring out the best in James.
"I'm glad that he has that challenge because it's going to make him focus more, it's going to make him play a little different," Wade said. "I'd rather for him to be guarding Kevin Durant than to have to guard DeShawn Stevenson like last year, where he wasn't as involved, and also Shawn Marion, he wasn't as involved.
"Kevin Durant, you've got to have your antennas up at all times. I think it's going to bring the best out of both of them, and it's going to be the best for the game, and it's going to be a great show."