(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen)
The Miami HEAT blew out the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night to even the NBA Finals at two wins apiece. The HEAT pulled away in the fourth quarter on the strength of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Game 5 is Sunday night.
Impact Performance of the Night: Dwyane Wade delivered his best performance of the postseason in the HEAT’s Game 4 victory over the Spurs. Wade finished with 32 points, six rebounds, six steals, four assists and a block. Offensively, he was everywhere, driving to the basket for circus finishes, hitting midrange jumpers and finding teammates on a series of creative passes in the fourth quarter. It was a nearly flawless performance on the offensive end, and a nice reminder of what Wade is capable of doing. Defensively, his activity was crucial to the HEAT’s success. His six steals and one block were huge, but he was disruptive all over the floor, making the Spurs work for everything in the second half. Wade’s performance was extraordinary, but he wasn’t alone.
Just as Dwyane Wade delivered his best game of the postseason, so too did Chris Bosh. Bosh finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, but those don’t even come close to telling the story for Bosh’s game. He was a monster defensively, controlling the backline, altering shots and in many cases preventing them. Bosh’s defense doesn’t get talked about much, but his presence allows the HEAT to play the undersized lineups that have been successful. His ability to challenge pick-and-rolls at the top of the floor then get back and shut off the rim is unique for a player his size. For the HEAT to win, they had to lock down defensively. Bosh took care of that.
The Deciding Run: The Spurs and HEAT exchanged 10 point leads in the first half, but were all tied at 49 at the half. The third quarter saw the HEAT pull forward, but the Spurs continued to match, clawing back to within three points with just under a minute left in the third quarter. LeBron James scored on a layup to close out the fourth, giving the HEAT a 5 point lead. In the fourth, the HEAT took control. They stared the quarter on a 21-9 run, spanning eight minutes, to lock up Game 4 and a series tie. Dwyane Wade powered much of the run, scoring or assisting on 12 of the HEAT’s points during the stretch. The defensive activity was present all night for the HEAT and in the end, it wore the Spurs offense down.
Play of the Game: There were numerous dunks and blocks throughout the game, but Dwyane Wade delivered on a play that he is known for when he snatched a wayward pass and took off down the floor. Gary Neal tried to cut Wade off in the paint, but Wade hit him with a euro-step and above-the-head crossover dribble that led to a slam dunk. Wade played great and the play was indicative of the explosion he had all night. It was vintage Wade all the way around.
Efficiency Rating: Offensive Efficiency: 115.4; Defensive Efficiency: 95.2
Trend to Watch: The HEAT got back to playing the suffocating defense we’ve come to expect when the playoffs roll around. By putting Mike Miller into the starting lineup, Erik Spoelstra also upped the defensive responsibilities of everyone on the floor. The players responded in a big way. Rotations were tight all game as the HEAT were much better at closing out on shooters while also patrolling the paint. Chris Bosh was at the center of everything, flying around the paint constantly contesting shots and turning Spurs attackers away. Dwyane Wade was a terror on the defensive end, snatching six steals and being a general pest to San Antonio ball handlers. For the game, the HEAT generated 13 steals and blocked seven shots. Nothing was going to come easy. It’s the defense that Couper has coined the “Omega Swarm,” and is what eventually won the series against the Pacers. The offense was great, but it was the defense that got the HEAT out in transition and into open space.
The Takeaway: Tough to play a better game than that. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were all tremendous on both ends of the floor. They were assertive on offense and supremely active on the defensive end. The shots at the rim that alluded the HEAT earlier in the series finally showed up and the HEAT took advantage. The HEAT’s ball movement was better than we’ve seen and it resulted in a number of open looks. Ray Allen and Mike Miller provided extra space for the HEAT attackers, as the Spurs had to respect their ability to hit open threes. It was a pivotal game because the HEAT have now regained homecourt advantage. Falling behind 3-1 to the Spurs would have been a nearly insurmountable hole, one that the HEAT no longer have to worry about. Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, the HEAT will get to return to play a home game at AmericanAirlines Arena. In a game with such high stakes, the HEAT played their best game of the postseason. Not bad timing.
Notes: LeBron James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. Ray Allen contributed 14 points off of the bench. Juwan Howard and Jarvis Varnado were inactive.