With a career performance from the youngest player on the floor, the Miami Heat moved one step closer to making an appearance in the 2020 NBA Finals with a 112-109 Game 4 victory over the Boston Celtics.
In this piece, we’ll highlight four takeaways from the hard-fought battle that ensued on Wednesday night.
A Herro will save the Heat
A somewhat unlikely candidate emerged as the star of Game 4: rookie guard Tyler Herro. In what became the game of his life to this point, the 20-year-old Herro scored a Heat rookie-record 37 points (Dwyane Wade held the previous mark with 27 in 2004).
The former Kentucky Wildcat made 14 of his 21 shots from the floor and five of his 10 attempts from 3-point range. Remarkably, he became just the second 20-year-old in NBA playoff history to score at least 37 points in a game. Who was the other, you ask? Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who had 42 in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals:
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) September 24, 2020
“I feel good about it,” Herro said of his performance in Game 4. “There’s a lot of work to be done still. We’re up 3-1.”
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra had high praise for Herro during his postgame media availability:
“He has a great competitive humility about him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, via ESPN. “He has a confidence. He has a fearlessness that is uncommon. But he’s humble enough to work, to be coachable, to take the mentorship from the veteran players that we have on our team, and he just continues to gain more confidence as we go.”
Herro has all the confidence in the world right now thanks in part to Jimmy Butler’s leadership, and the Heat will need that youthful exuberance in order to secure a spot in the NBA Finals.
The Celtics may have lost in Game 4, but they fought valiantly until the final horn after a sluggish start. In fact, Boston erased a double-digit deficit to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. Still, the Heat managed to hold off this late surge.
A 3-pointer from Jaylen Brown cut Miami’s lead to three with 16 seconds showing on the game clock. Herro and Butler combined to hit five crucial free throws out of six in the final seconds, securing the win to put the Celtics in a daunting 3-1 hole.
The Celtics were actually better than the Heat in several aspects of the game, including shooting percentage from the field (and beyond the arc), assists and offensive rebounds. Despite these numbers, they were still defeated.
Late to the party
On most nights, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum can score the rock with ease. In Game 4, however, the former No. 3 overall pick struggled to find a rhythm in the first half. In fact, he went scoreless through the first two frames before coming alive in the final two quarters. Notably, it was the first time all season that Tatum failed to score through the first two quarters of a game.
Though he struggled in the first half, Tatum actually wound up with a decent stat line for the night. He logged 39 minutes, notching a team-high 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting from the field (4-of-11 from beyond the arc and 4-for-4 from the free throw line), nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Still, Tatum’s slow start resulted in the Celtics playing from behind for most of the night. He took the blame for the loss:
“I didn’t score in the first half. That’s unacceptable,” Tatum said, via ESPN. “I know I have to play better. That’s what I tried to do.”
Tatum has been terrific throughout these playoffs, but the Celtics will need him to perform throughout entire games in order to pull off a big comeback.
Giveaways were a real issue for the Celtics in Game 4. As a team, they finished with 19 (11 in the first half alone). After taking an 85-84 lead in the fourth quarter, Boston gave the ball away on three of its next four possessions. That kind of sloppiness can’t stand in close games.
By comparison, the Heat finished with just eight turnovers on the night. Miami took nine more shot attempts because of this disparity, which helped make up for the difference in shooting percentage.
What about Bam?
Heat star Bam Adebayo hurt his wrist late in the fourth quarter and was in obvious pain. The big man had to ice it after the game. He claims he’s fine, but we’ll see how he’s feeling leading up to Friday’s game.
Adebayo has been a massive factor in this series. He’s averaging 21.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks while shooting 60.4% from the field in the series. The youngster acts as a hub of the offense and the anchor of the defense. Nobody will forget that game-saving block in Game 1.
If Bam can’t play in Game 5 or is limited, that would be huge for Boston.
The Celtics and Heat will meet for Game 5 on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. ET. For Miami, it’s the 12th time they’ve taken a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series. They’ve walked away as winners in the previous 11.
For Boston, it’s do-or-die time:
“We gotta be better,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said. We know what’s at stake. We know what’s on the line. We’ve got to play a complete game. It’s win or go home time.”
Let’s see if the Celtics respond.