Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) and Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) react during the second half at Game 3 of the NBA Finals basketball series, Sunday, June 17, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
MIAMI -- LeBron James arrived for practice Monday wearing lime-green sneakers, a highly fluorescent shade.
It was the fashion statement du jour for the league's three-time MVP, much like the eyeglass frames he's been sporting after games throughout this postseason. But those sneakers probably would have remained tucked away in the drawer beneath his locker during last year's NBA Finals, since very little about James' game would be considered glowing or luminous during those two weeks.
Different year, different story.
For the second straight season, the Miami Heat hold a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals. There's a glaring difference this time around -- that being James is playing at the top of his game. And he'll try to help the Heat move within one win of a championship tonight, when Miami plays host to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of this title series.
"We're a totally different team than we was last year when we was up 2-1," James said Monday. "We're a totally different team. We understand what it takes to win, we've used that motivation, and we will continue to use that motivation. But last year is last year, and we're not going into a Game 4 on someone else's floor. We're going into a Game 4 on our floor with a lot of experience in this type of situation. We'll be ready. We love the challenge."
Miami lost Game 4 in Dallas last year, the start of a three-game slide that ended with the Mavericks hoisting the title trophy.
So the Thunder know a 2-1 deficit in a series is hardly insurmountable, even though the home-court roles are reversed this time around. And if Oklahoma City needed more proof, all the Thunder need do is remember the Western Conference finals when they lost the first two games to San Antonio, becoming the 19th and 20th entries on the Spurs' incredible winning streak. The Spurs didn't win another game the rest of the way.
"We were down 2-0 against San Antonio and everybody thought the series was over," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "But I know our guys, they're very competitive, they're very resilient. They've always showed that type of effort every game, and we've always been a great bounce-back team. I thought last night was a great bounce-back last night. It's unfortunate we didn't make a couple plays, and uncharacteristic, also."