Good morning, folks. Anthony Davis is a bad, bad man. Let’s talk NBA Bubble.
RECAP – NBA Finals Game 4
LOS ANGELES LAKERS – 102 MIAMI HEAT – 96 [LAL leads 3-1]
The return of Bam Adebayo helped produce the most competitive game of the NBA Finals yet.
The former Kentucky big didn’t appear to let the neck strain injury that kept him out of Games 2 and 3 affect him too much in Game 4. Adebayo’s reinsertion into the lineup allowed the Miami Heat to all-but abandon the zone defense they rolled with through the first two games, slotting the first-time All-Star directly on Anthony Davis to open up Tuesday night’s affair. Miami’s physicality on the defensive end of the floor seemingly caught the Los Angeles Lakers off guard in the early stages of the game and Adebayo was a direct effect of that. Davis, in particular, struggled to find any offensive rhythm for the second consecutive game as Miami made life as difficult as possible for him whenever he had the ball in his hands; double-teams and traps constantly put Davis in tough positions and he didn’t always make the right play to get himself out of trouble. However, he drilled a dagger 3-point jumper to put L.A. ahead by nine points down the stretch and followed it up with a game-sealing bock on Jimmy Butler. The Lakers take a commanding 3-1 series lead as a result and are now one win away from the franchise’s 17th NBA Championship.
Here’s how we got there.
Mirroring the early stages of Game 3, the Lakers could not hold onto the rock through the first quarter of Game 4. L.A. turned the ball over 10 times in the first quarter of Game 3 and fumbled away another seven possessions in the first quarter of Game 4–three of them coming via LeBron James. Davis played all 12 minutes of the first period, but only managed four points and zero free-throw attempts. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel started Davis out guarding Butler instead of Adebayo, likely in an effort to prevent quick foul trouble. However, the Lakers were switching everything on defense, and Butler was picking apart the L.A. defense to the tune of 11 first-quarter points. Even though Adebayo picked up his second foul with roughly 90 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Miami only trailed 27-22 entering the second.
Despite the two fouls, Adebayo came right back in to open the period and came alive for the first time all night. He dropped in seven points and three boards in the second quarter, aiding a quick 12-5 spurt that gave Miami a slight lead. It didn’t take the Heat long to realize that, if they play with an added sense of physicality, the Lakers would shrivel up and submit. With Butler attacking at will, Adebayo hawking the paint, and Duncan Robinson creating space to fire up outside shots, Miami had the advantage leading into the half. The Lakers still held a 49-47 lead at the intermission, but the areas they typically held a significant edge in were not all that favorable. Miami limited L.A. to just three free-throw attempts in the first half, was only outrebounded by three, and had seven steals compared to just two for the Lakers.
To open the second half, the Lakers shied away from going extra tall, replacing Dwight Howard with Markieff Morris to start the third quarter. With this, Miami had Adebayo defending Davis, Butler on LeBron, and Jae Crowder on Morris. They would hardly stay in these strict matchups, though. All three Heat players were constantly switching and throwing different looks at the Lakers offense; anything to keep L.A. on its toes. But the defense wasn’t necessarily the problem for the Heat.
What killed Miami’s chances more than anything was Butler’s refusal to take over as he did in Game 3. After 11 first-quarter points, he finished with just 22 on the night and was passing up shots right at the rim in favor of kick-out passes to the perimeter. His lack of aggression cost Miami when it mattered most. Slowly, that aggression transferred over to the Lakers. Davis didn’t attempt a single free-throw in the first half but shot four in the third quarter as part of his nine points. His second trip to the charity stripe came off of Adebayo’s fourth foul with five seconds left before the buzzer. The Lakers led 75-70 heading into the final frame and were 55-0 this season when entering the fourth quarter with the lead. Make it 56-0.
The fourth quarter was back-and-forth until the end, but LeBron and Davis iced the game away for the Lakers in the closing moments. Davis’ dagger 3-point shot with 39 seconds left (over Adebayo, I should add) put L.A. up 100-91 and he followed it up with a sweet block on Butler the next time down the court, keeping the ball inbounds to run out the clock and put the Lakers ahead in the series 3-1.
BANG. ? pic.twitter.com/d8Cu6ORsQY
— ESPN (@espn) October 7, 2020
Davis finished his night with 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and four blocks while shooting 8-16 from the floor and 2-4 from beyond the arc. For the series, he’s shooting 61 percent overall, 55 percent from deep, and a perfect 100 percent from the free-throw line (17-17). His shot chart is obscene.
LeBron is likely still the favorite to win Finals MVP, but Davis’ contribution shouldn’t be ignored in any capacity. His defense, in particular, was the best in Game 4 that I’ve seen in this series thus far. Not only was he protecting the paint, but also roaming the perimeter and deterring guards from penetrating the rim.
Adebayo’s return concluded with 15 points and seven rebounds on a 6-8 shooting clip while playing 33 minutes. He was not held to a minutes restriction and appeared able to move his shoulder with ease. Starting point guard, Goran Dragic, on the other hand, was out again after giving it a go in warmups. As Miami had done in the previous outings, Tyler Herro started in place of Dragic and performed with mixed results.
The rookie registered 21 points, seven rebounds, and three assists for Miami, but finished 8-18 from the floor that included some tough, tough looks. Herro did drain one incredible floater over the out-stretched arm of Davis, though, that had absolutely no business finding its way into the bucket. But outside of a couple of triples and a fancy finish at the rim, Herro was inconsistent. That being said, he still broke a couple of records along the way.
Tyler Herro is the 6th rookie in NBA history to score 300 or more points in a single postseason.
Lew Alcindor (352 in 1970)
Jayson Tatum (351 in 2018)
Alvin Adams (341 in 1976)
Elgin Baylor (331 in 1959)
Jack Sikma (301 in 1978) pic.twitter.com/WNsPnGL60p
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 7, 2020
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) October 7, 2020
Not bad for a 20-year old…
Rajon Rondo added seven rebounds and five assists for the Lakers but shot just 1-7 from the field for two points. Twice in the fourth quarter, Rondo jumped amongst the trees and actually outleapt several Heat players for two key offensive rebound tip-outs. On both occasions that he earned a second-chance possession for the Lakers, they converted them into points.
Game 5 will take place on Friday at 9:00 p.m. EST on ABC.
|Anthony Davis (LAL)||102-96 W @ MIA||22||8-16 (2-4)||9||4||1||4||2||+17||41|
|Tyler Herro (MIA)||96-102 L vs. LAL||21||8-18 (3-7)||7||3||1||0||3||-13||37|
|Bam Adebayo (MIA)||96-102 L vs. LAL||15||6-8 (0-0)||7||1||1||0||3||+3||33|
|Rajon Rondo (LAL)||102-96 W @ MIA||2||1-7 (0-2)||7||5||1||0||1||+8||28|