LeBron James said the Los Angeles Lakers cannot afford to make any mistakes when they face off against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in their blockbuster playoff series opener on Tuesday.
James and Curry go head-to-head in a playoff series for the first time in five years on Tuesday when the Lakers and the Warriors meet in game one of the Western Conference semifinals in San Francisco.
It is the latest heavyweight showdown between two of the greatest basketball players in history, who faced each other in the NBA finals for four straight years between 2015-2018.
The 38-year-old James leads a Lakers team who have hit form at the right time after struggling to muscle their way into the playoffs, crushing the Memphis Grizzlies last Friday to complete a 4-2 series sweep.
Curry meanwhile produced a 50-point masterpiece on Sunday as the defending NBA champions snatched a 4-3 series win over the Kings in Sacramento.
Talking to reporters on Monday, James spoke of his admiration for Curry as the two friendly adversaries prepare to battle it out once more.
“Nothing but the utmost respect for Steph and all he’s been able to accomplish – not only on the floor but off the floor,” James said.
“It’s great to have people like that in this league setting the example for the generation to come.”
James meanwhile warned his Lakers team-mates that they would need to be “locked in” against a ruthless Warriors team who have shown repeatedly they will punish mistakes.
“They’re right there at the top along with those great San Antonio Spurs teams. If you make a mistake, they make you pay,” James said.
“It’s that simple. So we have to be locked in,” James added, citing the fact that Curry was able to score so freely on Sunday despite being closely marked throughout.
“They’re going to do a great job of scoring even when you’ve got a body on top of them,” James said.
– ‘Going to be epic’ –
“When you see some of the routine shots Steph was making in game seven and everybody was going crazy – but that’s just Steph. When you’re that great you make tough shots like that. So we’ve got to be locked in and not hurt ourselves.”
James is also likely to face a physical defensive confrontation with the Warriors’ Draymond Green.
Green, infamously suspended during the 2016 NBA Finals for hitting James in the groin, is relishing another duel with the four-time NBA champion.
“It’s going to be epic,” Green said after Sunday’s win in Sacramento. “You got Steph, you got Bron doing it all over again.”
Green said the longevity of James and Warriors stalwarts like Curry, Klay Thompson and himself was testament to their enduring competitiveness.
“Here we are eight years later from the first time we met in a playoff series and still playing at that level,” Green said.
“That’s special. Says a lot about who you are as a pro and how serious you take this. How you appreciate this game.
“You’re talking about some ultimate competitors. LeBron is one of the ultimate competitors. Steph, Klay, myself.
“To have these opportunities, we don’t take for granted.”
Green however pushed back at suggestions that this season marked a “Last Dance” for the likes of James and Curry.
“Stop trying to turn the page on us so fast,” Green said. “Stop trying to turn the page on Bron. We get so caught up in what’s the next thing, we don’t appreciate the current.
“Then you get to the next thing and you’re looking back, like, ‘Man, I wish we still had that. I wish we could still see this.’
“So for me and our guys we are going to appreciate this every step of the way.”