The Miami Heat welcomed Bam Adebayo back from shoulder and neck injuries and while they hung tough, the Los Angeles Lakers gutted out a 102-96 lead in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was responsible for the first 10 points for the Lakers as he drained two threes from the left corner to go along with a layup and dish to Anthony Davis. However, turnovers were once again an issue as they committed five early ones that allowed the Heat to take a lead.
Los Angeles was much more active coming out of a timeout and able to hit their jumpers to go up, but Jimmy Butler connected on several contested shots to keep Miami close. Despite the mistakes and Butler’s scoring throughout the quarter, the Lakers finished the period up 27-22.
With Davis off the floor, L.A.’s defense suffered as Miami was able to play through Bam Adebayo, who sparked a 8-2 run. LeBron James found a couple driving lanes for an easy and-1 and dunk, but his struggles holding onto the basketball hindered the team from truly cutting into the deficit.
Rajon Rondo was able to settle down the offense and get the ball moving for several good looks, while the defense buckled down and allowed anyone but Butler to shoot. Alex Caruso drained a corner three, but Tyler Herro answered with a foul line jumper to cut the L.A. lead to 49-47 at the half.
Although James put an emphasis on better ball security, he had five turnovers in the first half.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel opted to go to his smaller lineup by inserting Markieff Morris for Dwight Howard to start the third quarter. The decision paid off as Morris continued with his impressive play.
The Lakers’ defense forced Herro into two consecutive turnovers that resulted were part of a 7-0 run.
James took advantage of the Heat going under on him in pick and roll situations, burying a pair of threes to keep the Lakers ahead. Although L.A. went into the final frame up 75-70, free throws allowed Miami to hang around.
Davis and James made their presence felt with the former coming up with a big block on Kendrick Nunn and the latter draining a tough baseline jumper over Butler to force a Heat timeout. Davis went down after Caruso fell into his legs, but was fortunately able to stay in the game.
Rondo came up with huge offensive rebounds that led to free throws for James that he was able to convert. Butler missed a go-ahead 3-pointer with less than three minutes remaining, and the Lakers pushed the ball up the court to find Caldwell-Pope for one of his own.
Then after the Laker forced the Heat into a shot clock violation, Caldwell-Pope’s driving layup gave the Lakers enough of a cushion to close out the game. If there was any doubt, Davis’ 3-pointer with under a minute remaining sealed it.
The Lakers improved to a combined 56-0 in the regular season and playoffs when entering the fourth quarter with a lead.
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