LeBron James powered into the lane, looking to take another step toward an NBA title.
Instead, he took too many steps.
James was whistled for traveling, ending a possession that could have given the Los Angeles Lakers a fourth-quarter lead.
A couple minutes later, he did it again.
In the time of the game when he usually turns it up, James turned it over Sunday night, part of a sloppy performance by the Lakers in a 115-104 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
“It wasn’t about effort, it was just about execution,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
Knocked off track early by Anthony Davis’ first-quarter foul trouble, the Lakers wasted a chance to take a 3-0 lead, which has never been blown in NBA playoff history.
They never got control of Jimmy Butler or of the basketball in Game 3. Los Angeles committed 20 turnovers that led to 21 Miami points, with James committing a game-high eight of them.
“Just silly turnovers,” said Davis, who had four in his limited first-quarter stint.
“Offensive fouls, miscommunication on some passes, but we’ve just got to be better overall. I mean, we’ll be fine.”
Davis took only nine shots and finished with 15 points, less than half of his performances in the first two games, when he scored 34 and 32.
“You have to be able to adapt and adjust,” Vogel said of Davis’ foul trouble. “It probably had a small factor on our offensive rhythm but we’ve just got to be better overall on both ends.”
James had 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but the NBA assist leader’s turnovers contributed to the Lakers never having sustained momentum.
“You just can’t turn the ball over versus that team,” James said, “and I take full responsibility for that.”
They fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter, even with James cutting short his usual early rest because Davis had to the go to the bench with a couple quick fouls.
The Lakers stayed behind most of the way until early in the fourth quarter. But Miami went back ahead for good right after James’ first travel and Butler wouldn’t Los Angeles come back again, finishing with 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.
James and Davis had been putting up numbers like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant through the first two games of the series. With Miami short-handed, the only intrigue seemed to be which of the two Lakers superstars would win the NBA Finals MVP award.
Now there’s much more intrigue than that.
But the Lakers never lost again after their defeats in each of the three previous rounds, finishing each series in five games. They can still do that now.
James said the Lakers don’t feel concerned because they know they can play a lot better, adding that this team learns quickly from its mistakes.
He vowed to cut down on the ones he made.
“I’ll be a lot better with the security of the ball and the turnovers and the things of that nature,” James said, “and we as a team will be a lot better defensively with our game plan.”
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