With the heartbreaking 102-96 loss in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat is facing a 3-1 deficit against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. With its backs against the walls, the team has absolutely zero room for error for the rest of the series, if that wasn’t already the case. Here are six things the Heat have to do to complete the impossible and overcome a 3-1 deficit, and become just the second team in NBA history to do so.
1. Jimmy Butler has to be more aggressive
Watching Game 3, it was impossible to not notice Butler, he was everywhere en route to just the third 40 point triple-double in NBA Finals history. However in Game 4, Butler got more passive and seemed to hand off on numerous plays to players that were much less deserving of looks than Butler was.
Butler definitely has the ability to impact the game in numerous ways, but that doesn’t mean he always has to. There were a number of instances where Butler deferred to Kendrick Nunn or Jae Crowder, both of whom struggled all night, for no reason. Butler also passed up numerous open shots in order to generate looks for his teammates, which failed often.
2. Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder have to be consistent
Entering the game, it had felt like ages since either Robinson or Crowder caught fire like they had all of the regular season and even playoffs. Robinson ended up having a nice game, finishing with 17 points, but neither has been as good of an offensive factor as they could. While it is on Butler and Adebayo to be the stars and make the big plays, the Heat were just a few Crowder or Robinson shots away from being up 3-1 in this series, seriously.
Had either player been able to hit shots late in Game 2 or 4, both of which came down to the wire, this could have been a completely different series. Instead, Crowder has really cooled off and Robinson has been inconsistent, something that needs to be addressed immediately if the Heat want any shot at coming back.
3. Erik Spoelstra needs to figure out a more effective rotation
For the duration of the playoffs Coach Spo has had the benefit of having one of the deepest rotations in the NBA, and was able to utilize different players against different teams depending on the matchup. One series, Kelly Olynyk would see major minutes and another he wouldn’t. As was the case with Nunn.
Unfortunately in Game 1 of this series, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo were both injured, leading to a necessary change in the rotation. All the sudden Meyers Leonard and Nunn were seeing decent minutes. But now, Adebayo is back and Nunn did nothing in those games with a shortened rotation to warrant any playing time.
However, Spoelstra stuck with Nunn in Game 4 and he ended up playing a whopping 26 minutes, unacceptable for someone that was constantly missing shots. Spo could have turned to Solomon Hill as he had done in the past in order to throw a bigger body at the Lakers, but he didn’t. Even Chris Silva could have provided some spot minutes if needed, though that comes with much more of a risk.
The fact that the Heat haven’t tried to throw Derrick Jones Jr. at the Lakers either is mindboggling. While Jones is basically a zero on offense, he does do an excellent job at defending bigger guys and limiting fouls, something that led to a decent Miami first half.
If the Heat want any chance at making this a competitive series or a shot at the title, Spoelstra needs to desperately figure out what to do with Nunn and his minutes.
4. Have to limit turnovers, generate more, get second chance points
In the first half, the Heat had LeBron looking rattled, as he had accounted for five turnovers in the half alone continuing from his trend of eight turnovers in Game 3. Then, James settled in and only committed one in the entirety of the second half. It’s hard to stay perfect against one of the best players of all-time, but the Heat easily could’ve won this game if they had generated just one or two more turnovers and prevented a couple of their own.
Second chance points and points off turnovers are some of the most crucial facets of each game, as they have the chance to set the tempo and allow teams to get comfortable if they are on the right side of the turnover or rebounding margin.
However, the Heat have been outrebounded in every single game this series and have only one the turnover battle twice. If the Heat want to win Game 5 and onward, they have to dominate in at least one of those categories in every game.
5. Stop settling for shots, need much better halfcourt offense
To say the Heat have looked sloppy on offense all series long is an understatement. This was obviously most notable in Games 1 and 4 but the team has settled for shots too much and too often. Crowder and Nunn in particular were bad about this, shooting the ball immediately after either bringing the ball up the court or grabbing one of the rare offensive rebounds.
If Butler is going to get any help outside of Adebayo, it’s going to have to come from good looks and not rushed halfcourt offense. The bottom line is that Nunn needs to play almost no minutes. A couple spot minutes here and there to give Herro, Robinson or Iguodala rest is fine, but he went 2-11 in the game. If just a few of those shots went to different players or at the very least weren’t rushed, short jumpers, we would be looking at a 2-2 series.
6. Shut down the corner 3
It’s pretty absurd that the Heat let a different player catch fire from beyond the arc. In Game 1 it was everyone, Game 2 was Rajon Rondo(!), Game 3 was Markieff Morris and Game 4 was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. None of those guys are notorious 3-point threats, with Danny Green yet to pop off like Heat fans are all too familiar with.
If the Heat aren’t going to shoot well from deep, the least they could do is to actually shut down the perimeter. The dagger 3-pointer from Anthony Davis was essentially unguarded, unacceptable from a team with its season on the line.
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