The Miami Heat fall down 3-1 to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.
Some takeaways from game 4…
#1: The Heat’s first half offense: from in the mud to finding slots.
With three minutes left in the first quarter, Caleb Martin gets his offensive board for a putback to finally crack the Heat into double digits. Yeah, not ideal. A quarter later as they head into the half, the Heat fight their way into 51 total points. Yeah, more ideal. When it came to the early offense, it was just in complete disarray, starting with the fact that everything was lateral. Not finding their usual slots at all, until the Heat ran a jumper montage to finish the first. Butler finding the pull-up, Kyle Lowry finding his shots, and more. The second quarter was up and down, but they grinded their way back into it by getting to the line a bit and guys like Bam Adebayo playing much stronger in the interior to close the half. A very ‘tale of two halves’ stretch of basketball.
#2: To be physical, or not to be physical.
When it comes to being able to utilize physicality, this crew of officials wanted no part of it. Well, at least on one side of the floor. I’m not usually the referee police, but Nikola Jokic definitely got a degree of physical leeway wherever he is on the floor. Locking arms and flailing in transition, putting on a show around the rim, etc. Normal basketball activity, except he was getting away with it. Frequently. As for the Heat, they were having trouble finding their way around battling on the boards or position around screens. It may not seem like a big deal on paper, but this Heat team thrives off physicality and getting their hands dirty, When you take that away from them completely, yeah it’s going to tilt things for sure.
#3: Max Strus vs Duncan Robinson in this series…
There have been series I’ve deemed as more fitting for Max Strus, and others that correlate with Duncan Robinson. But sometimes it’s not about scheme, and instead about rhythm and flow. Yet the latter lies with Robinson at the moment clearly. He has a certain confidence with the ball in his hands at the moment, and continues to move around defenders in different ways, while consistently drawing help. A noticeable shift upon entering. But why are minutes not matching production at the moment? There’s a certain trust level in Strus finding his way after what we saw following game 1, but let’s get back to schematics for a moment. Robinson is currently putting the ball on the floor at a higher level at the moment, especially in these actions with Bam Adebayo. And with the way Denver is defending, that’s what they need. Interested to see how this shifts…
#4: Kevin Love doing his best to provide a third quarter spark.
As things started to fall further and further away in the third quarter, there was one guy who continually kept trying to reel it back in. Jimmy Butler? Bam Adebayo? Wrong, it was Kevin Love. He found a flow from three off some spot-ups, mostly due to the way Denver has been defending him. As I noted early in the game, they were disrespectfully helping off possession after possession. They used him as the pressure point. So after he knocked a couple threes down, he then started playing the reactionary game. Defender flies out hard for a close-out, he puts the ball on the floor, gets into the lane, and flips in a finger-roll plus the foul. He also was providing some real feel on the boards during that stretch. He was essentially their third quarter offense, which says many things, but it kept them afloat while Butler was disengaged.
#5: The fourth quarter:
To kick things off, Adebayo forced Nikola Jokic into his 5th foul of the night as he battled for position. As the Heat trail by 10 and Jokic heads to the bench, there was hope. Bam gets to the line off a strong take with a new Gordon matchup, as Butler follows it up with a contact baseline and-1. Timeout Denver. The non-Jokic minutes made an offensive run of their own though, as they sent Murray off the same pindown to force 2-on-1 after 2-on-1. Now Heat call timeout, down 8. Yet the next stretch was just a run-on sentence. Still an inability to string together some stops, plus the offense was back to a grind again. Butler just could not find a flow, and seemed out of sorts on most attacks. Picking up the dribble, placing the ball down low, etc. Ultimately, Denver out executed Miami throughout game 4.