The Heat are down 3-1 and face a crucial Game 5 in the NBA Finals. They won one game without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, but even with Adebayo back now, is it too late? Dragic, the Heat’s second-leading scorer, has pretty much been ruled out for the rest of the series. Dragic has been averaging 19.9 PPG, second only to Jimmy Butler. Without their primary ballhandler, it will be very tough for them to even this series.
However, the Heat are here for a reason. They swept the Pacers. They continued with beating MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in five. Then went on to win in six over Jayson Tatum and the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. They have won against the odds in the past two series; who’s to say they cannot come back?
Miami is one of the most resilient teams in the league; they were down double digits multiple times to the Celtics and came back and won nearly every time. Lakers fans know they cannot count out Miami. Even though Bam is questionable for game 5, he is going to play. Had Dragic been here, it would’ve been a much closer series and would most likely be tied at two games.
The past is in the past, and there is no stopping what happened to Dragic and Adebayo. The only thing the Heat can change is the outcome of games 5, 6, and 7, and it starts on the defensive end.
Defense Wins Championships
The Heat have shown vulnerability in their zone defense since game 5 of the ECF. Boston’s ball movement made Miami’s defense shift so much. Tatum or Jaylen Brown could pass to Daniel Theis or Robert Williams at the free-throw line. Adebayo had a tough time adjusting. When you can get the ball to the short corner or free-throw line extended, you have developed a two on one situation. Theis would get it in the middle and either look low for a cutting Brown or Smart or Tatum, and most of the time, Adebayo would be guarding the short corner. That left Theis open for a 15-footer just inside the paint, and he kept rolling with this shot. When Adebayo would step up, Boston did an excellent job of cutting and executing the action.
The Lakers have shown that they can penetrate the defense and shoot the three-ball very well this series. In games one and two, the Lakers made 15 and 16 three-pointers, respectively. Of course, LA is not a team that lives and dies by the three. So, one could call these games flukes. Miami has done an outstanding job on ball rotations in their zone. They always jump to the ball quickly, and there is still someone on the ball.
Miami’s done a perfect job of this against LA, but the Lakers are just making extremely tough contested shots. The Lakers can get the ball into the middle and lob it up to Davis or Howard or penetrate and get past one guy and kick it out to an open Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Kyle Kuzma every time. What the Heat can do to stop this is anticipating passes much better and play more of a press defense.
Miami forced 15 turnovers and five off Lebron in the first half of game 4. To upgrade their defense, Miami should switch to a 1-2-2 trap at half court or play a man defense. Butler is doing outstanding against LeBron, and Adebayo does a decent job on Davis.
Second of all, Miami has got to shoot the ball better. With a top-3 shooter in the league in Duncan Robinson and other lights-out shooters including Tyler Herro and Jae Crowder, there is no way the Heat should only make 11 threes in one game. Robinson had zero points in game one. There is no way Miami can expect to win without Robinson’s scoring. The biggest story of the finals has been the Lakers three-point shooting – Miami, with one of the best shooting cores in the league, has not made more threes than LA in any of the four games.
Also, Coach Spoelstra should consider playing Kelly Olynyk more to optimize shooting and rebounding. He had 17 points in game 3 with Bam out, so he would be a viable option to give anyone a rest. Jae Crowder should not finish with eight points in a game when he gets perhaps the most open looks from three on his team.
The final area where Miami can get over the hump is the intimidation factor of Lebron James. Sure, he’s been to nine out of the last ten Finals, but Miami needs to get this out of their heads and not be afraid of James. In fact, after beating Boston in the ECF, Butler said, “If you want to win, you’re going to have to go through a Lebron James-led team.” They seemed mentally tough, but when it comes to game time, who is ready to play Lebron?
Miami has done a fantastic job this series of staying together and playing as one unit. They had great chemistry throughout the season, and they have kept their heads up the whole ride, even with a devastating injury to Goran Dragic. The fact is, if Miami wants to win, they have to stay locked in, take it one game at a time, and play Miami Heat basketball.