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LeBron James: ‘I feel a lot better than I did last night’

Miami Heat star LeBron James said Wednesday that he was still sore from cramps but expects to be fine for Thursday’s game 5 of the NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“I feel a lot better than I did last night. That’s clear,’’ James said at an NBA Finals news conference. “I’m still a little sore because of the muscles just kind of being at an intense level, very tight. I’m still sore. I was able to get some treatment [Tuesday] night. I was able to get some treatment this morning.’’

Make no mistake, though, James was in severe pain as he was forced to leave a close game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder in the final minutes Tuesday night, said Dr. Bryson Lesniak, an orthopedic surgeon for UHealth Sports Medicine and assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The level of pain from such muscle spasms, Lesniak said, “can be anything from a very minor nuisance ... to something severely painful and debilitating to the point that it looked like [James] was going through: you can’t stand; you can’t walk. You can’t walk on that muscle without stretching it out and having severe pain.”

The good news, Lesniak said: leg cramps are very likely to be short-lived and with proper stretching, rehydration and other therapeutic treatments, a full recovery comes within hours.

“Recovery is usually fairly quick,” he said. “It’s a matter of minutes to hours as opposed to days. ... I wouldn’t expect him to have any residual cramping [Thursday], for example.”

James fell to the court in pain and had to be carried off in the final minutes of Game 4. It was a scary moment for Heat fans, but the league’s reigning MVP said he diagnosed the problem quickly and knew it wasn’t a serious injury.

Trainers applied ice to James’ legs and stretched his muscles on the sideline. James grimaced a lot and grabbed at his hamstring. He then re-entered the game to wild cheers from fans.

Limping, with the score tied and 2:51 to play, James nailed a three-pointer, putting the Heat ahead 97-94. But the leg cramps forced him to leave the game again, this time for good.

James has pushed his body to the point of exhaustion throughout the playoffs. He averaged 46 minutes a game during the seven-game Eastern Conference Finals against Boston (regulation games are 48 minutes, and two of the games went to overtime). During the Finals against Oklahoma City, James has averaged 44 minutes. He played 44 minutes and 20 seconds in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

James participated in all of practice on Wednesday, though the Heat conducted merely a walk-through.

“We didn’t do very much running and things of that nature,’’ James said, “but I think I’m going to use today as an opportunity to continue to improve with my legs. And also with the game being basically at midnight tomorrow night, I have all day, too, to prepare. I should be fine by tomorrow night.’’

Miami Herald sportswriters Joseph Goodman and Barry Jackson contributed to this report.

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