Paul Pierce asked to guard LeBron James in Game 4, hoping to contain him because of his experience and disregard for fear of him. LeBron scored 22 apiece in Games 1 and 2, and a respectful 28 in Game 3 -- as close to "containing" LeBron as you will get. And in Game 4, LeBron scored 49 points as he led the Heat to the victory.
Tonight, LeBron and the Heat look to be the first team into the Conference Finals, and they could warrant some more rest. The Indiana Pacers failed to close out the Washington Wizards last night, losing by 23 points at home. Their Game 6 is on Thursday night. Close out games are always the hardest, but the Heat haven't lost a home closeout game since LeBron has been here.
Spoelstra, on his players' ability to close teams out, "I think all of that is borne out of respect to understand how difficult it is."
In Game 5, the Heat should expect better contributions from their role players. Rashard Lewis, Norris Cole, and Chris Andersen were mostly quiet, although not entirely ineffective. In Game 3, everyone was out of sync, and Game 4 saw LeBron take over the entire offense. At home, Cole, Lewis and even Battier can be more effective.
The every other day scheme seems to be taking a tole on Dwyane Wade, as he hasn't put up a big game yet against the Nets. If Miami wants to play far into June, they will need him to play better.
The Nets will do everything possible to stay alive tonight. Expect to see a desperate team, and maybe their best game yet. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson have played a lot of playoff games, this won't be new to them. Closing out the Bobcats without Al Jefferson is one thing, closing out a veteran team is another.
Regardless, the Heat expect to win tonight, and they should. Protecting home court will continue to be key for the Heat to advance and do it quickly. There's no injuries to report, everyone is available, and lineups are expected to remain the same.
The game tips off shortly after 7PM and can be seen on TNT. Make sure you tune in, join us on our GameThread going live an hour before the game, and check back for post game coverage.
Game 4 Highlights