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Listless and uninspired, the Los Angeles Lakers meandered through another sloppy first half in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
They discovered a purpose in the second half offensively and defensively to beat the Miami Heat 102-96 on Tuesday for a 3-1 series lead.
LeBron James scored nine points in the final 6:08 and 20 of his 28 points in the second half when the Lakers needed an offensive spark. He also had 12 rebounds and eight assists. Anthony Davis had 22 points and nine rebounds, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 15 points and five assists.
The Lakers are on the verge of their first championship since 2010 and their 17th overall, which would tie them with the Boston Celtics for most in NBA history. James is also one victory from his fourth championship and third with three teams.
Game 5 is Friday (9 p.m. ET, ABC).
As difficult as it will be for Miami to stop James and the Lakers, beating the Heat won’t be easy for Los Angeles. Even shorthanded, the Heat are well-coached and have enough talent to extend the series.
“This was a throwback game and there were some moments of truth there at the end, and probably the bottom line is they won those moments of truth,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We had some reads, they are long and they are an extremely good defensive team. Windows have to be much quicker. I thought we had some opportunities.
“But you do have to credit their defense and they just made some more plays going down the stretch. We’ll respond. That’s academic at this point. We’ll just rest up (Wednesday) and get back to work and get ready for the next one.”
While guard Goran Dragic (torn left plantar fascia) was not cleared to play after missing Games 2 and 3, starting center Bam Adebayo returned for the first time since straining his neck in Game 1. He provided an offensive and defensive boost with 15 points and seven rebounds.
This win was no easy feat for the Lakers, with the game tied at 83 with 6:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. James, who grew tired of Jae Crowder’s hard fouls, went to work late in the game. Davis and Caldwell-Pope were also big in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles received solid shooting from key players and won the 3-point game. Lakers starters were a combined 26-for-53 from the field, and the team made 14 3s to Miami’s 10.
Defensively, Los Angeles limited Heat guard Jimmy Butler. Following a 40-point triple-double with 13 assists in Game 3, he had a much more manageable scoring game from the Lakers’ standpoint: 22 points.
The Lakers put Davis on Butler, making it more difficult for him to drive into the lane and find his spots. Still, Butler was one assist shy of a triple-double with 10 rebounds and nine dimes.
“That’s what we study film for,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We studied the game tape and see where you’re getting hurt. There were ways that he was hurting us. Obviously, he had 40 points last game. So we identified ways that we can take certain things away from them, and hopefully not get hurt too bad. That’s what it’s about, making adjustments.”
Miami shot 42.7% from the field and 34.4% on 3s.
“We’re continuing to go grow our understanding of the Miami Heat and their offensive system, which is very, very complicated and difficult to guard,” Vogel said. “Each game we tweak the scheme a little bit and get a little stronger with what we are doing on that end and what we are trying to take away. …
“I was very proud of our defensive performance tonight. Game 2 and Game 3 were not good enough, quite frankly, to win in the NBA Finals, and we made some adjustments to our scheme, and the guys raised their level from a competitive spirit standpoint and alertness standpoint and both were huge factors.”
Source: USA Today