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NBA Finals: Five takeaways from Miami Heat's 102-96 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4

Tom D'Angelo
Palm Beach Post
Heat forward Bam Adebayo (13) shoots against Lakers forward Markieff Morris (88) during the second quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night.

The Los Angeles Lakers are one game from winning their first NBA title in a decade.

The Lakers held off the Miami Heat for a 102-96 victory in Game 4 Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista.

The Lakers can end this long, bizarre 2019-20 season in Game 5 on Friday. A victory would give the franchise its 17th championship, tying the Celtics for the most in league history.

The Heat now are in the near impossible position of having to win three straight games. If not, they leave the bubble having lost in the Finals for the third time. They have won three titles, the last coming in 2013.

“This was a grind out, throw back game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Both teams were competing with great force.

“We’ll respond, that’s academic at this point.”

The Lakers were led by LeBron James, who overcame a rough start to finish with 28 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Anthony Davis also started slow but finished with 22 points.

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 22 points but was far from the player who carried Miami in Game 3. Tyler Herro added 21.

Center Bam Adebayo returned for Miami after missing two games because of a neck strain and was solid, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds. Point guard Goran Dragic (foot) missed his third consecutive game.

The decision on both players was made about an hour before the game after both spent time warming up. Dragic was seen on bench, appearing frustrated and almost in tears after coming off the court.

Here are our five takeaways:

Lakers hold off Heat in final minutes: Although the lead never changed hands in the fourth quarter, the Heat tied the score at 83 with 6 1/2 minutes to play. Miami, though, could never take control.

James then scored the Lakers next seven points and L.A. led 90-85. Miami kept it close before L.A. got two big baskets from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – including a 3-pointer with just less than three minutes to play – giving the Lakers a 95-88 lead. Miami continued to battle but Davis’ second 3-pointer of the game opened a 100-91 lead – the biggest of the game by either team – with 40 seconds to play. Pope finished with 15 points.

"We can’t have so many pockets of undisciplined basketball," Adebayo said. "I feel like that dictated the game. We had spurts of early shots in the shot clock and giving up easy baskets."

LeBron turns it around: After equaling his career-high eight turnovers in a Finals game in Game 3, James continued to give away the ball early and became frustrated in the second quarter.

James was not at his best on three consecutive possessions, losing the ball on a Butler steal, being blocked by Butler and then throwing the ball away. He came out of the game on the next whistle.

James had five turnovers and just three field goals (in 8 attempts) at the half, giving him 13 turnovers in his last six quarters. But after James made his first shot of the quarter, a long 3-pointer, and body language changed as did his game.

James scored 20 points in the second half. After the Heat tied the score at 83 on a Butler drive and James scored the next seven Lakers points.

“They just made more plays going down the stretch,” Spoelstra said.

Bam return buoys Heat: Adebayo sounded upbeat Monday when talking about returning. Although he said he was day-to-day, he was sending signals that he would return for Game 4. Then that became a near certainty when the Heat upgraded him to questionable later that day.

Adebayo made his presence known from the start. He started the game covering Davis and scored the Heat’s first points of the game on a driving layup off a pass from Herro. Adebayo became a point-center in the second quarter, bringing the ball up the court on several occasions.

"He passed all the protocols with his mobility and strength, and I thought he was great considering he hasn't played in a week or hasn't really done anything other than rehab," Spoelstra said. "But he's the heart and soul of who we are. So it was just great to have him back out there, and I don't have to deal with him trying to stare a hole through me anymore."

Butler sheds his cape: Butler got off to a fast start, making his first five shots and scoring half of Miami’s 22 first-quarter points. But in the second half Butler was far from the player who posted the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history.

Butler finished 8-of-17 from the floor. He played 43 minutes after playing 45 minutes in each of the previous two games.

Butler went two full quarters without a field goal, finally breaking the drought just more than a minute into the fourth quarter.

Davis guarded Butler for part of the game.

"I got to be better in getting my guys more involved," Butler said. "That's my role making sure everybody is in the right spot. I got to do a better job of making sure we win."

Davis breaks out in second half: Davis scored 66 points in the first two games. Miami changed its defensive philosophy in Game 3 holding Davis to just 15 points by playing far less zone, and as a result were able to front Davis in the post and double team him when he touched the ball.

Davis, like James, struggled in the first half of Game 4 before looking more like the player from the first two games in the second half. Davis broke out in the third quarter, scoring nine points and helping the Lakers take control of the game.

"I got to be better," said Adebayo, who covered Davis. "Can’t give him too much air space."