The Miami Heat enter Game 4 of the NBA Finals with a chance to even the series at 2-2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. However, a loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit just one team has overcome.
Here’s how the Heat can prevail and keep their title hopes closer than many expected.
1.) Jimmy Butler MUST be aggressive from the jump.
If there’s a way to describe clutch, look no further than the five-time All-Star himself.
Butler, who accounted for 34.8 percent of Miami’s points and 52.0 percent of their assists en route to a 40 point triple-double, was the crucial factor to the Heat’s desperation victory in Game 3.
To put his heroics into perspective, Butler’s 73 points scored or assisted on is the second-most in an NBA Finals game in league history, trailing none other than Walt Frazier’s 74, per Elias Sports Bureau.
Butler’s big-time efforts started early on, as his 8 points and 3 assists, along with a demanding defensive presence helped Miami garner an early 14-point lead. That sparked a relentless effort for the Heat, who saw themselves carry a 58-54 lead entering halftime, the first time in this best-of-seven-series.
Butler racked up a staggering 32.7 percent usage rate in Game 3, his third-highest in the playoffs, per NBA Stats. Climbing above the 30 percent mark has been a recipe for success, as Miami holds a 5-0 record when Butler does such.
It’ll be vital for the Heat to once again see the veteran forward take accountability of the offensive possessions early on.
2.) With Bam Adebayo back, rebounding should be at an all-time high.
Without rebounding, Miami would’ve found themselves down 3-0 against L.A., a deficit no team has ever overcome.
The Heat were out-rebounded by just seven Saturday (50-43), a significant improvement from the Lakers’ Game 1’s abomination (54-36), resulting in multiple second-chance points. In Game 3, Miami was much more conservative in terms of not allowing offensive boards, recording 11 box-outs in comparison to Los Angeles’ 3, according to NBA Stats.
Now with Bam Adebayo back from his neck/shoulder injury, Erik Spoelstra’s club adds unarguably their best rebounder and aggressor in the paint.
3.) Find ways to keep Anthony Davis from heating up.
Things obviously won’t be as easy as it seemed in Game 3 versus Davis. Still, Miami has to find a way to break him down to pieces.
From attacking the basket or taking charges for him to draw fouls to double-teaming him when he approaches the paint, it’s an advantage the Heat used as their niche on both sides of the court.
Davis’ usage rate was just 26.7 percent throughout his 15 point, 5 rebound night, a factor that forced the ball to L.A.’s rotation players, who simply couldn’t fill in for the seven-time All-Star. He’ll now be tasked to overcome his sluggish evening against Adebayo, a 2020 All-NBA defensive second-team member.
4.) Play Heat basketball.
During the regular season, Miami was better known for their ability to shoot from beyond the arc to help save the day. Oddly enough, those times have changed, as the Heat have suffered cold spells from Jae Crowder, Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro either in the Eastern Conference Finals or against L.A.
That’s when playing through the Heat culture has worked so well, as they’ve adjusted to poor shooting and instead prioritized attacking the basket, something in which Miami outperformed the Lakers at in Game 3.
The Heat ultimately scored 52 points in the paint compared to L.A.’s 34, an 18-point swing that helped them overcome a poor 12 of 34 (35.3 percent) shooting from three-point range, per NBA Stats.
Mind you, that’s without Adebayo.
That started with Butler, who finished the game with 26 points inside, the most he’s ever scored in the paint in any of his 654 career games, according to NBA Stats.
Add that alongside the ability for Robinson and Herro to adapt to alternatives has helped Miami receive productivity from everyone on the court.
Despite shooting just 3 of 10 in Game 3, Robinson’s 37 minutes on the court helped Miami outscore the Lakers by 27 points, the highest plus/minus of any player in Game 3. As for Herro, he entered the fourth quarter with just 9 points on 3 of 13 shooting. Regardless, he was huge in solidifying a victory late in the game, scoring 8 points on 3 of 5 shooting in the final period.
As long as the Heat continue to understand their woes and quickly correct them, they’ll be able to play at a level unmatched to other clubs.