The Miami Heat entered Wednesday’s battle with solid momentum and confidence. Along with playing off a gutsy performance in Game 3 that earned them a 115-104 win, they were also geared to have All-Star Bam Adebayo back in the fold. He missed the last two games due to a neck and left shoulder injury, and as the team’s do-it-all big man, his presence was a big boost.
Unfortunately, though, the Heat ultimately fell short, which would’ve tied the series at two apiece and possibly put them in the driver’s seat. They lost a hard-fought Game 4, 102-96, and it was especially tough as they made crucial baskets late in the game. In the end, the Los Angeles Lakers simply made more plays – especially in the clutch.
While the effort was definitely there, such a loss usually meant that a handful of errors and questionable decisions were made. Miami has been smooth in the 2020 playoffs, but Game 4 was one of the days where the play was suddenly shaky, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Let’s list down some of the things that went wrong for the Heat:
The offensive rebounding numbers weren’t that far off (Lakers had 10, Heat had 7), but four of the 10 happened in the final period, and they turned into Laker free throw points, which meant that it helped push the team into penalty.
Mediocre outside shooting
The Heat made four three-pointers in the fourth, three of which were huge as they helped them stay in the game. However, inconsistent outside shooting was one of the reasons they were playing behind in the first place. Heading into the final quarter, the Heat were just 7-for-27 from beyond the arc, and it included bricks that would’ve flipped the flow of the game.
The Lakers also shot terribly from three and even started the fourth going 0-for-8 from downtown. The difference is 1) They made up for it pin the previous quarters and 2) They hit two during crucial parts, one from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope that increased the lead to 93-88 with 2:58 remaining, and another from Anthony Davis with only 39.5 seconds left, a dagger that increased the lead to 100-91.
It’s another area that doesn’t look bad in the box score, since the Lakers had 34, a relatively okay number on a 102-96 game, and it’s only two more than what the Heat had.
Like the two other reasons, though, it goes beyond that and the errors again occurred during terrible parts of the contest. Among those is the Rajon Rondo drive at the 1:29 mark of the fourth quarter, where the game was neck and neck at 95-91, and the trailing Heat were on the verge of grabbing a good amount of momentum.
Adebayo went light on a driving Rondo as he played the pass on the pick-and-roll with Davis, and he might have been concerned with a kickout too – not knowing it’s been sealed well by his teammates.
The result was Rondo drove all the way for an easy lay-up, pushing the lead to six.
Jimmy Butler not shooting enough in the final stretch
Butler carried the Heat in his shoulders in Game 3 through a big-time stat line of 40 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists. He almost did it again in Game 4 as he finished one assist shy of another triple double – 22 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists (also had three steals).
“Jimmy Buckets” might’ve turned into “Jimmy Passes” a little too much in the fourth, though. He shot efficiently in the quarter (3-for-4), but four shots isn’t going to cut it. In fact, it could’ve been 2-for-3 as the last basket happened when the game was almost out of reach (a seven-point game with 31.5 ticks left).
Relax, Heat and Laker fans. We just saw two 3-1 series leads evaporate in this very playoffs. This is not over… yet. It should be interesting to see how Butler, Adebayo, and rest of the Heat will respond.