MIAMI — With six words, LeBron James explained the philosophy behind the way he now plays the game:
"I've done more and lost before."
Such was the response to a question presented to him Saturday — one day before he and the Heat take on the Spurs and try to even the Finals at a game apiece — about the perception that he needs to be more aggressive at times. It was almost as though he was waiting for such a query, because he had his answer at the ready.
In short, James has put up awesome numbers in past playoffs but never got the result he sought for nearly a decade until last season, when he and Miami won a title.
"When I was in Cleveland, we played Orlando in the Eastern Conference final and I think I averaged 38, 36 or whatever I averaged," James said, referring to the 2009 series where he averaged 38.5 points. "I guess I should have done more in that series as well. But I can't. … I do what's best for the team. What's best for the team, it doesn't always result in a win."
Case in point: Orlando won that series in six games.
Case in point again: James had a triple double, often the gold standard in defining an outstanding all-around game, in Game 1 of these Finals (18 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists). But it came in a loss in which he took only 16 shots, so the second-guessing was predictable.
And on Saturday, James' style of play got defended — not just by those on his side, but also by the guy leading the other side.
"He's a grown man," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He doesn't need any of you to tell him anything. He knows more than all of you put together. … If he makes a pass and you all think he should have shot it, or he shoots it and you think he should have made a pass, your opinions mean nothing to him, as they should not mean anything to him."
James often has said he doesn't predetermine how he's going to play before a game and just lets the flow and what his team ultimately needs be his guide. And he's singing that same tune now.
"The Spurs did a good job of shrinking the floor … so if that's their plan, we're going to continue to exploit that," James said. "And I believe our guys will be there to knock those shots down."
GATOR Trio: The last time Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and Matt Bonner all went to a championship round together, none of them got a title. At least one of them will this time.
Haslem, Miller and Bonner all played for Florida in 1999-2000, the season where the Gators went to the NCAA title game and lost to Michigan State.
Haslem's a fan favorite in his hometown of Miami. And Miller has been embraced by Heat fans since his first game here, surely on some level because of his UF ties.
Some former Gators who play in Miami — the Bulls' Joakim Noah, for example — don't get the warmest reception. But a handful of fans in Miami were directing UF's trademark "chomp" toward Bonner before Thursday's Game 1.
"Anytime we play here and Orlando, there's always a small Gator faction that even though I'm on the opposing team will give me a subtle 'Go Gators' or a Gator chomp, for sure," Bonner said. "I think they just don't want the home team to see them cheering for someone on the opposing team."