Lakers eye 17th NBA crown while Heat remain defiant

The Los Angeles Lakers can complete the franchise’s return to the pinnacle of basketball here Friday as they look to seal a record-equalling 17th NBA Finals crown with a victory over the Miami Heat.

The Lakers, who returned to the finals this season after missing the post-season for six consecutive years, can clinch a series victory in game five in Orlando.

The Lakers took a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series on Tuesday, leaving Miami needing to stage a miracle to keep their championship hopes alive.

Only one team — the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 — has ever come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit to win the title. The odds, and momentum, are stacked firmly against Miami.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra nevertheless struck a defiant tone on Thursday, insisting that the series remained competitive despite the improbable task facing his men.

“We think it’s a really competitive series,” Spoelstra said.

“We have a purpose of why we’re here. We’re competing for a title, and it’s the first team to four wins. There’s a lot of different narratives out there.

“We don’t give a shit what everybody else thinks. This is everything that we wanted this year, an opportunity to fight for, compete for a title, and that hasn’t changed at all through these first games.”

The fates have conspired against Spoelstra’s team, however.

Injuries to Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo in game one robbed Miami of two key figures for games two and three.

While Adebayo returned for Tuesday’s game-four loss, Dragic remains sidelined by a foot injury and is rated as “doubtful” to feature on Friday.

“It’s supposed to get more challenging every step of the way,” Spoelstra said.

“I know the character of our group, and we are still very much committed to what our purpose is.” (AFP)