- Series Hub: Spurs-Heat
SAN ANTONIO – Game 4 of The Finals was the Big Three Game. Facing the prospect of going down 3-1, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 85 points, 30 rebounds, nine assists, 10 steals and five blocks to lead the Miami Heat to a 109-93 victory.
James gave an MVP performance, Wade turned back the clock to 2006, and Bosh played big. Their numbers were huge, but their performance went well beyond the box score.
In the wake of a rough night from the outside on Tuesday, James said that he hadn’t lost confidence in his shot. And he proved it in Game 4, shooting 7-for-10 from mid-range and 1-for-2 on threes. His eight buckets from outside the paint were more than he had in Games 1-3 combined (7-for-30).
But before he made a single jumper, James set the tone for the game by pushing the ball at every opportunity, looking for easy baskets in transition. After a San Antonio miss or turnover, James was usually in a full sprint toward the Heat basket, whether he had the ball or not.
Here, as soon as Manu Ginobili loses the ball, James takes off, and Norris Cole hits him on the break …
Here’s a leak out after Mike Miller blocks a shot in the third quarter … (yes, Mike Miller really blocked a shot.)
The Heat registered 14 fast-break points (seven from James) on Thursday, their high for the series. But pushing the ball up the floor was also good for getting better shots in their half-court offense. The faster they got the ball across the midcourt line, the more time on the shot clock they had to work with.
The following play was the Heat’s sixth possession of the game. After a made basket on the other end, the ball is passed up the floor and James already has it in the low post with 19 seconds still on the shot clock …
That play resulted in an open baseline jumper for Wade, two of his 32 points. That was Wade’s highest scoring output in more than three months, but he really didn’t shoot well from the perimeter. Wade was 4-for-13 from outside the paint on Thursday and is shooting 32 percent from outside the paint in the postseason.
Of his 32 points, 24 came from the paint (where he shot 10-for-12) or at the free throw line (4-for-4). He made better use of the screens his big men set for him at the elbow and didn’t just take the shots the Spurs’ sagging defense gave him. He attacked the defender going under the screen and kept him on his heels.
Below are some of Wade’s highlights. The first two buckets came via the elbow screen and a crossover dribble. The fourth was a result of James pushing the ball up the floor, and the isolation on Tim Duncan came from a switch on another elbow screen.
More than anything schematic, Wade’s breakout was about energy. He had plenty of it on Thursday and it showed up in the points column.
For Bosh, there were more rolls in his pick-and-roll game, and he had as many baskets in the paint (five) as he had in the first three games combined. But Bosh’s energy really came through on defense, where he registered two blocks, two steals and 11 defensive rebounds. He was denying Duncan in the post, but also able to help his teammates at the basket.
On this possession, Bosh contains a Tony Parker pick-and-roll, helps off Duncan to block Boris Diaw, and then helps again to contest a Parker drive…
The other Bosh block, this time on a Parker drive…
And finally, his denial of Duncan to send Game 4 into garbage time…
As important as Bosh’s defense in the paint was the Heat’s defense on the perimeter. The Spurs had 38 points in the paint (they’ve had 38 or 40 in each of the four games) and 23 at the free throw line (almost twice as many as they averaged through the first three games). But they only got up 16 3-point attempts, half as many as they shot on Tuesday.
Here’s Miller running Ginobili off the 3-point line, Bosh rotating off Duncan, and James helping the helper…
The Heat still haven’t lost two straight games since Jan. 10 and Game 4 was proof of how energy and effort can sometimes change a team’s fortunes.
“I was just trying to keep my foot on the gas,” James said afterward, “and just play until the tank was empty.”
Now, we just have to see if the Big Three can do this two games in a row.