The NBA Finals are all square after four games following the Miami Heat’s 109-93 victory in game 4. Utilizing a smaller lineup than typical, the Heat were able to stymie the Spurs and avenge their recent 36 point defeat. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also emerged as the key contributors they are expected to be, but have not been thus far in the Finals.
Caught off guard by the lineup change that saw Mike Miller enter the starting lineup for the first time in the Finals, the Spurs struggled to adapt to the guard heavy onslaught that followed.
Danny Green, the star of game 3 after his three point frenzy, described the effect that the Heat’s adjustment had on them Thursday night. “It enabled them to get up and down. It created a mismatch for us, especially with D-Wade. We had our 4 guarding him a good amount of time. It created more fouls. It allowed them to get after us defensively. They’re aggressive, they rotate faster, they move the ball more. They were able to attack and get open looks.”
The small lineup also resulted in a drastic improvement in the stats usually dominated by the big men on the court. Rebounding and points in the paint both showed an advantage for the Heat. Miami owned a 50-38 win in points in the paint, and a 41-36 rebounding lead. The small lineup stymied the Spurs, and enabled the Heat to control two of the stats the Spurs have the advantage, at least on paper.
The new lineup gave Miami a new way to confuse the Spurs offense. The Heat won in game 2 because of turnovers, and the same can be said about game 4. The small lineup stymied the Spurs into 19 turnovers, enabling the Heat to get out and run the court with their quicker, smaller roster.
Miami also won because of the emergence of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Absent for much of the post season, the two members of the ‘big three’ not named LeBron played like the superstars they are supposed to be. Wade was able to find his stroke again, and Chris Bosh ended up being the most dominant big man on the floor in game 4.
Wade was able to put up a NBA Finals high 32 points in game 4. The fact that the Heat stymied the Spurs with their small lineup was on full display with Dwyane Wade. To open the game, the Spurs didn’t know how to adjust to the small lineup, and wound up putting center Tiago Splitter on the former Finals MVP. That experiment failed in less than a minute, but Wade found his stroke in that time. He would remain how for the rest of the night, making 14 of 25 shots on the night.
Bosh also contributed nicely, posting a double double and looking impressive inside. A post move against Tim Duncan highlighted his night, making a nice spin move to get past the ageless wonder and creating an easy layup for himself. That type of move has been missing for the Heat all Finals long. Bosh finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks on the night. Thanks to the impact he and Wade were able to have, LeBron wasn’t left “on an island” as he put it after the game.
Alarming for the Spurs in this game was the performance of their stars Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. Parker suffered a hamstring injury in game 3, and decided to play through it in game 4. During the first half it looked to be a great decision, as he was playing like his usual self. Quick, making the right decisions on when to pass or shoot. With 15 points and 6 assists in the first half, all was thought to be fine with the veteran guard. However he looked fatigued, missing all four of his shots and never scoring again.
Manu Ginobli on the other hand, remains almost entirely absent in this series. Not generating much attention because of the effectiveness the Spurs have had in competing in this series, last night exposed his poor play. Putting up only five shots on the night, and making only one, he had almost no influence on the game. Gary Neal and Danny Green have been hot, and keeping Ginobli on the court in favor of them looks to be hurting the team right now.
The Finals are now a three game series, with both teams adjusting well after losses. The Heat went to a small lineup in game 4 and were able to stymie the Spurs. That likely won’t be the case in game 5, given Greg Poppovich and company will have plenty of time to adjust to that new wrinkle, and add in a couple of their own. This series is far from over, and is extremely difficult to predict a winner.
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Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express