With the momentum decidedly in Cleveland's favor after a Game 3 win in the Finals, the Cavaliers were poised to take a 3-1 lead in the series, an advantage no opposing team has ever overcome throughout NBA history. Instead, a subtle shift in the Golden State Warriors' starting lineup put LeBron James' hopes for a title near his hometown on hold, as Golden State convincingly won 103-82 on Thursday night.
Following the loss, James was asked if the current 2-2 tie in the series is the biggest challenge of his career. His response is likely to upset some among the Miami Heat faithful.
As per Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel, here is the full question and response:
Q: The series is tied now going to Golden State. Do you feel that this is the biggest challenge of your career so far? How do you feel about maybe thinking about letting this one go at home?
A: "You don't let any of them go. Both teams are in the Finals for a reason. You can either look at it, 'OK, we stole home court and they stole it back.' Or you could look at it and say they won two on their floor; we won two on our floor. It would be the same thing. If they won Game 1 and Game 2 and we came home and protected home court, it would be 2-2 and we're heading to Game 5.
"So the story line is different. It just depends on what day it is and how you guys want to write the story.
"Biggest challenge of my career was being down 3-2 going into Boston. That's probably the biggest challenge of my career. Game 5 at Golden State is not that big when it comes to going to Boston and you lose multiple times in that arena, and the franchise that I was with at the time had never won a playoff game in Boston. Now that's pretty challenging. So I've been through a little bit in my pretty cool career."
James is referring to his Game 6 performance in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, one of his finest performances during the four years he played in Miami.
He would total 45 points that night before the team would clinch a Game 7 at home in Miami. The Heat would go on to win their second championship.
One of the more intriguing subplots to this year's Finals is James' allusion to "extra motivation" to win the Finals. Many have guessed that it's an opportunity to show the Heat franchise (and team president Pat Riley) that James is capable of winning a title without Miami's support. No one knows for sure.
Even if James is using some feud with Miami to inspire him, it still seems somewhat disrespectful to ignore the team that gave him the opportunity to win two titles and compete for two more. Many Miami fans are still upset about the circumstances following James' departure last summer and his perceived efforts to sabotage Riley's plans for free agency.
You could argue that James chose not to say the Heat name because he's concentrating on his current team and doesn't want to dredge up memories of the past four years. Still, it seems somewhat calculated for someone who's spent so much of his life in front of a microphone and in the public eye.
But if you're still upset at James for his sleight on Thursday or for the way he left Miami, you'll just have to take comfort in a statistic making the rounds in social media after the game. In must-win Game 4 situations in 2011, 2014 and now 2015, LeBron James failed to score a single point in the fourth quarter in each of those games.
With losses in those first two Finals series, it's a trend that doesn't look good for James and his Cavaliers teammates.