Fast Breaks: LeBron, Heat rediscover rhythm, Spurs pay in Game 4
With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade leading the way, the Heat sliced through the San Antonio defense while dialing up their own. They created easy baskets for themselves and won Game 4 109-93 in a back and forth Finals that now stands tied at two games each.
He's back. LeBron James vowed to be more aggressive in Game 4 after three clunkers (by his lofty standards) to start the series. He delivered, attacking the Spurs in a variety of ways: grabbing defensive rebounds and running one-man fast breaks that allowed him to reach the paint with momentum; exploiting a sagging defense and sinking mid-range jumpers in rhythm that he has been draining all season; and posting up Kawhi Leonard, backing him down for short-range baskets. This was the dominating version of James the NBA has seen for the past two years. If he has demystified the Spurs' defense, San Antonio are in trouble.
He's back, too (sort of). Forty-eight hours ago, Tony Parker didn't know if he could play on his strained hamstring. Thirty-six-hours ago, he underwent an MRI. Twelve hours ago, he was cleared to start. Yet there was Parker at game time, driving to the rim and sinking his floater, his pull-up jumper and his underhand layup. Parker kept the Spurs afloat as the Heat threatened to run off with the game early, scoring 15 points in the first half, but he went scoreless in the second and retreated to the locker room briefly.
Personal space. Erik Spoelstra made a lineup change, inserting Mike Miller for Udonis Haslem, and the move seemed to backfire because the Heat didn't make a three-pointer until the middle of the third quarter. But the threat of Miller's shooting, as well as Ray Allen's and Shane Battier's, stretched the Spurs' defense enough that James and Wade were able to find a few more driving lanes. The Spurs still tried to pack the paint against James, but it was more difficult with Miller camped outside. The Heat's entire offense hinges on spacing the floor and Spoelstra helped get it back on track.
Wade-ing through trouble. Dwyane Wade picked up his fourth foul with 8:27 left in the third quarter but he remained assertive and closed out the Spurs as James rested. Just like in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Wade responded when the Heat was most desperate. He put together his best performance of the playoffs, scoring a game-high 32 points with a stunning six steals. Wade has been a sliver of himself this post-season because of a bum knee, but Game 4 was a good reminder that he can be more than a capable sidekick for James.
Continued downpour. Gregg Popovich said he didn't know whether players could stay in a zone from one game to another, but the Spurs seem to have done it. Even though they weren't as prolific from three-point range as in Game 3, they were efficient again, with Danny Green and Gary Neal making a combined 6 of 9 threes. But the Heat played tighter defense on the perimeter and did not allow so many open looks.