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NBA Finals: Focused LeBron James A Different, Better Player

If LeBron James seems different, it’s because he is going about things differently. Last year’s defeat in the NBA Finals changed him. For the better, he says.

“Obviously, up until the Finals last year, he was having an amazing playoffs,” Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade said. “He had a game where he struggled, and he kind of let that get into his mind a little bit, and he was thinking too much. Now he’s playing; he’s on attack and being very aggressive. . . That’s the difference, obviously, from last year to this year, and the difference in our team.”

For sure, James has been brilliant in leading the Heat to a 2-1 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder going into tonight’s critical Game 4 of the Finals in Miami. The Heat were in the same spot last year — and lost the next three games to the Dallas Mavericks, who won their first NBA championship.

James has other intentions this year.

“I’m focused and determined to bring another championship here to Miami,” James told USA TODAY Sports on Monday. “It takes a lot of out of me, but at the same time I have that fun package in there, as well.”

He has abandoned Twitter, instead spending some of his free time reading books, including the Hunger Games, even right before games. He and Wade hang out with their sons. It has been a formula, he said, that has kept him balanced.

On the court, James seems more free, more confident and purposeful. Coach Erik Spoelstra has called on James to do it all, including guarding all positions on the court. James defense on OKC’s Kevin Durant helped limit him to just four points in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

“I’ve coined his nickname ‘one through five,’ ” Spoelstra has said, meaning James can defend every position.

What James really has guarded is Miami’s championship ambitions — and against another Finals flop.

“Each game is its own challenge,” James said. “And I have to be better.”

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