The Optimism of Realizing that the Heat Bucked Many Long-Term Trends While Winning Game 4
It has been well documented that LeBron James had a historically good night in Miami’s Game 4 win in Indiana, tallying 40 points 18 rebounds and 9 dimes. Nobody has notched totals that high in all three categories in a Playoff game since Elgin Baylor did so for the Lakers in 1961. But in that game, Los Angeles beat Detroit 120-102 in Game 1 of their opening-round series, so Elgin’s individual impact on the game was slightly less pronounced.
In the Heat’s 101-93 victory, for example, LeBron scored 39.6% of Miami’s points: a number he has eclipsed only twice this season. That, in addition to the fact that nobody has done so in 50 years, makes it not only unlikely that he matches those totals in all three categories, but unlikely that even he scores 40 points in a game again in this series.
The other stat totals are likely to decline as well.
In no game this year has James totaled more than his 27 combined assists and rebounds from yesterday. He also added two blocked shots, a total that he hasn’t surpassed in more than two and a half months months. The lone aspect of the King’s rule in Game 4 that Pacer fans should worry about were his zero three-point attempts. Last night was the first time in 21 games that James, a 33.1% career shooter from behind the arc, had failed to bail out the defense with at least one long ball, and if that continues for the rest of this series, Indiana could be in a bit of trouble. But the odds of all of these trends happening again in a single game is astronomical, and the Pacers still were in the game from start to finish.
So while the the Miami Heat may have won Game 4 in Indianapolis,it would appear that they caught lightning in a bottle.
And it isn’t just LeBron.
Dwayne Wade’s spectacular night was a bit overshadowed by his wing mate, but it is equally unrepeatable. The Heat guard grabbed 9 rebounds in Game 4 after only notching 11 previously in the entire series. He also managed 30 points in the final 31 minutes of this game after scoring 29 points in his previous 74 minutes of action. Six of those points came from behind the arc, matching the number of treys he had hit since April 10th.
In short, while Wade played a great game, a drop off is likely imminent for Game 5.
Udonis Haslem even got into the act, as he more than doubled the point production he had in the previous three games. Coming into action on Sunday, Haslem had scored only 6 points all series, and he surpassed that number with 8 points in the fourth quarter alone. His 14 points came on 5 made field goals, the most shots he had made in nearly 2 months. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that the Pacers, presumably sick of watching LeBron and Wade fillet them on offense, went to a “somebody else beat us” strategy. They changed their pick-and-roll defensive strategy to blitz the ball-handler (either James or Dwyane) with two and this left Haslem time to shoot an at-least-semi-open shot from the mid-range. Unexpectedly compared to his recent ability to shoot jumpers, he knocked them down.
Additionally, the Heat played their best game of the series while the Pacers struggled.
In Game 4, Roy Hibbert — for all intents and purposes the Pacers MVP this postseason — was limited to his lowest offensive rebound and total rebound marks for the series. Foul trouble sidelined him while Wade and James relentlessly attacked the rim. The Pacers as a whole couldn’t make a play on defense when they needed it most, resulting in Miami becoming the first team to eclipse the century mark in points against Indiana during the playoffs. The result was Indiana losing the battle of the paint, which is not surprising given the slashing ability of Wade and James and the foul trouble to the Pacers’ front court. But they were outscored by 18 points in the paint in this game (50-32), the exact total that they have been outscored in the paint this entire series. Adding more futility to the fire was the fact that the Pacers had nearly as many turnovers (15) as assists (17).
The game was ugly, but the loss only counts once.
With a few of the trends reverting back to their norms, Indiana has plenty of hope for Tuesday night.