If anybody playing in the NBA Finals is relaxed right now, it certainly can't be anyone close to LeBron James.
But the man has a bit of pressure on him, but he is also playing outside of his mind, which includes leading all scoring in Game 3 with 29 points to go along with his 14 rebounds. So should LBJ be relaxed continuing the series in Miami?
Going into Game 4 up one on the Oklahoma City Thunder though should be a good thing for the Miami Heat. Since '97, two series (including LeBron's Cavaliers sweep at the hands of San Antonio in 2007) went into Game 4 with one team up 3-0. But for the 13 that did involve one team going up 2-1 after Game 3, 11 of those series went to the team holding the advantage.
Obviously though, James and the rest of the Heat have a few 2011 Finals demons to exorcise before they put the rest of this matchup on cruise control. So what mistakes will they have to avoid to become the third team since 1984 to lose after claiming a 2-1 lead? Let's take a look at the three instances:
1984–Boston Celtics def. Los Angeles Lakers 4-3
Los Angeles split the opening games in Boston before Magic Johnson passed out 21 assists in 137-104 victory that ignited Larry Bird to call his teammates a bunch of "sissies." The Celtics went on to win the next two games after the Lakers blew Game 4 en route to a seven game series win. Fun fact: this was also the last series to be played under a 2-2-1-1-1 format, as opposed to the ridiculous 2-3-2 format we play with now. What the Heat can take from this: don't let the other team's star player take over. Larry Bird averaged 27 points and 14 rebounds a game during the Finals, including 34 in Game 5. Kevin Durant's performances are earning comparisons to Jordan, and the Heat need to stop that if they want to hold on to this lead.
2006–Miami Heat def. Dallas Mavericks 4-2
Behind Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks jumped on top of Miami by taking the first two games of the series in Dallas. Then Dwyane Wade literally exploded for 42, 36, 43, and 36 points in Games 3, 4, 5, and 6 to lead the Heat to their first title in franchise history. What the Heat can take from this: contain the guard. Everyone's saying it: Russell Westbrook's play will decide this series. If he's hot, then it's going to OKC. If he's erratic, then the Thunder will have to wait another year. Keep the pressure on Mr. Geek Chic, and the title will be in LeBron's hands.
2011–Dallas Mavericks def. Miami Heat 4-2
Remember this one? The one where Dirk still had memories of '06 ringing in his ears and decided to explode himself? Yea, that was fun to watch. For everyone but Miami. What the Heat can take from this: forget about it. They are a much better team then they were a year ago, and LeBron James is, somehow, a much better player. If they can keep exposing the Thunder as the stiff, inexperienced team they've been looking like the past two games, then they should have no problem winning out.