The Miami Heat took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 104-98 win in Game Four of the NBA Finals.
The Heat made some big shots down the stretch, with LeBron James on the bench for much of the time.
James left the game with 5:15 remaining in the fourth quarter because of left leg cramps. Miami was forced to call a timeout after James hit a field goal, as he motioned towards the bench and was unable to walk without limping.
The MVP tried to fight through the pain, but sat for most of the final minutes because the pain was too great.
Your muscles basically just lock up on you, so I tried to walk, but they wasn't letting me move, said James. I wanted to walk to the bench, but my legs wouldn't allow me. But I've been there before. I've had cramps before, like I said, and it's not a pleasant feeling.
James fought through the pain and was able to play for a short stretch, despite the leg cramps. The forward wasn't at full strength, but made a clutch three-pointer to give Miami a 97-94 lead with 2:50 left.
I mean, the ball was swung to me, and the shot clock was going down, James said. I just wanted to step up and try to make a play. You know, and I was able to drain that three and give us a lift. I was just trying to make a play. If I was out on the floor, I wanted to try to make a play with the limited mobility I had at that time, and I was happy I was able to come through.
While some saw James' final minutes as a gutsy performance, others questioned the validity of the injury. He has often been criticized for shying away from big moments, and a phantom injury might help James escape criticism for his play at the end of the game.
Did LeBron James fake his leg cramp at the end of Game Four?
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, James suffered from cramps at halftime and was unable to play through the pain towards the end of the game.
James is in top physical condition, but it shouldn't be much of a surprise that he suffered cramps with the minutes he has been logging. Even after missing most of the final minutes, James only sat for four minutes in the entire game.
Since the Eastern Conference Finals, James has practically been playing the entirety of every game. He averaged 45.9 minutes per contest in the Heat's seven-game series against the Celtics. In the Finals, he's sat just 16 total minutes in four games.
James has missed some shots late in games, but he hasn't been afraid to shoot in the fourth quarter in this series. He even came back in the game on Tuesday and made, perhaps, the biggest bucket of the night for Miami.
James seemed to be in a great deal of pain, and it would probably be a stretch to say that the injury was fabricated. He finished the game with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
The Heat look to close out their series with the Thunder on Thursday night in Miami. James says he'll be ready for Game Five.