After falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup, the Miami Heat find themselves looking up from the depths of 3-1 hole. Most experts are calling this series a wrap, but we’re here to discuss how the Heat can fight their way back in.
1. Don’t give up
First things first, the Heat cannot give up the valiant fight they’ve put forth in this postseason. As a No. 5 seed, they’ve been a team that has defied the odds throughout the playoffs, defeating the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and third-seeded Boston Celtics en route to an NBA Finals appearance.
The order is tall for Miami, though, as only one team in NBA history has managed to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. That team, of course, was the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
Notably, this is now the 36th 3-1 lead in Finals history. Of the previous 35, the leading team has gone on to win the championship 34 times. This paints a clear picture of the steep hill that lies before the Heat.
Still, games in this series have been tightly contested since a blowout in Game 1. Game 4, for instance, was hard-fought to the end, with the Lakers finally pulling away behind a big 3-pointer from Anthony Davis in the closing minute. For this reason, the Heat must keep fighting:
Jimmy and the squad will fight with their hardest in game 5 🙌 pic.twitter.com/VCt2bD2Xdc
— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCP) October 7, 2020
The Heat have been undermanned, but they’ve put forth a heck of an effort. Let’s hope that doesn’t stop now.
2. Get healthy
The injury bug bit the Heat at an inopportune time, as Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo were both ruled out of Games 2 and 3 due to ailments suffered earlier in this series. Adebayo, who was dealing with a neck injury, returned to play in Game 4, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds. Dragic (foot) made his way through a pregame shootaround on Tuesday night, but he was ultimately held out.
Miami has played relatively well without these two key players, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have both out on the court, even if they’re not at 100 percent. Adebayo should be good to go for Game 5, but Dragic is still listed as day-to-day. The good news is there’s an extra day off before Friday’s Game 5.
3. Convert open looks
Several players have stepped up for Miami from the perimeter in this series. Guys like Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Tyler Herro have all had moments of shine from downtown. Even Kelly Olynyk had a solid outing in Game 3. However, the Heat missed quite a few open looks in Game 4, including one corner triple from Butler that would’ve given Miami the lead with 3:05 remaining on the clock.
After Butler’s shot rimmed out, Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope proceeded to knock down a trey of his own at the other end of the court. With this swing, the Lakers went up 93-88. It was just one shot, but it shows how fast momentum can shift in close games:
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has made 40 3-pointers this postseason, tied for the second-most in a single playoff year in Lakers history. Only Kobe Bryant had more in 2010 with 49 3-pointers. KCP shot 3-6 on open 3-pointers tonight. The rest of the Lakers shot 4-14 on open 3s.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) October 7, 2020
Frank Vogel on @CaldwellPope, who had 5 huge points in crunch time, hitting the 3 at the 2:58 mark, then the driving layup after he beat Robinson off the dribble for a layup at the 2:02 mark, putting LAL up 7: "Big guts, to take and make those shots that he took."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 7, 2020
That game turned on the corner three Jimmy Butler missed for the lead with 3:05 left, followed by KCP's three, then KCP's driving layup. Game, set, series.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 7, 2020
The Heat finished a respectable 11-of-32 on 3-pointers in Game 4, but they got off to a really slow start from deep and missed a number of good looks:
It just felt like the Heat was a shot or two away the entire game. "It's a make or miss league" or something like that. https://t.co/81QCMG04Qr
— Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) October 7, 2020
That Butler miss was just the backbreaker.
4. Hit switches
Jimmy Butler had a Herculean performance for the Heat in Game 3, notching 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds as part of a 115-104 victory. With this impressive stat line, he became the first player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple-double in a Finals win.
The Lakers responded to Jimmy’s big night by making Anthony Davis the primary defender in Game 4 — a tactic that worked rather well. Davis defended the former Marquette Golden Eagle throughout the game and on pivotal plays in crunch time, limiting his production and forcing him to give the ball up to his teammates. In Game 5, the Heat will need to figure out a way to free Butler from this strategy, especially late:
Let’s give Coach Vogel a lot of credit for his game adjustment to have AD guard Jimmy Butler!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) October 7, 2020
5. Extraordinary Butler
As previously mentioned, Butler posted a record-setting performance in Game 3. He may not score 40 points in Game 5, but the Heat will likely need their star to carry another heavy load.
Butler was just one assist shy of another triple-double in Game 4, as he finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. That’s a solid stat line, to be sure. However, he missed all three of his shots from the perimeter and finished with a plus/minus of minus-11.
The Heat need Butler to be a bit more aggressive looking for his shot, especially if Goran Dragic is still out. This might mean taking a few more jumpers in an attempt to loosen up the defense.
And so the NBA’s grandest stage is set for a defining moment, though this stage is in a bubble. Can the Heat pull off an improbable comeback in this series, or will the Lakers claim their 17th championship in franchise history?
Game 5 is set to tip at 9:00 p.m. ET on Friday, with ABC having live broadcast coverage.