The NBA Finals are knotted up once again, as the Miami Heat won a crucial Game 4 on the road over the Spurs. The Heat stole back the home-court advantage in an impressive victory. Dwyane Wade and the Miami defense took over the game, while the Spurs could not find an offensive rhythm or come up with consecutive stops on defense.
With the series tied up, Game 5 becomes the most pivotal game yet. Here are the three biggest takeaways for each team from Game 4 and how they will affect Game 5.
Miami Heat takeaways
1. The Heat don't lose twice in a row
After a crushing defeat in Game 3, the Heat came roaring back for a big win. The defending champs never go down easy, especially not twice in a row.
This is the team that won 27 games in a row, the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. The last time Miami lost twice in as many games was back in January. In the postseason, they are now 6-0 following a loss.
It is no surprise the Heat walked away victorious after Game 4. The stats will show that it is very rare that Miami would let two games in a row slip away. If the Heat continue to respond to every loss this way, it will be tough for San Antonio to win two of the next three and win the series.
2. The Big Three is in fact the Big Three after all
Throughout these playoffs, the Big Three of the Miami Heat has had its struggles. LeBron James had been shooting poorly, Wade's injury limited him from playing at his best and Chris Bosh was nowhere to be found. That wasn't the case in Game 4.
The Big Three stepped up in the biggest game of the season and put on quite a show on both ends of the floor. James shot 15-of-25 from the floor for 33 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Wade shot 14-of-25 for 32 points to go with his six steals. Bosh had 20 points, 13 boards and a couple of blocked shots.
Altogether, the Big Three combined for 85 points—the most between them in a playoff game since joining forces in 2011.
After some less-than-noteworthy performances from each of these guys, they all came out firing for Game 4. In the last round against the Indiana Pacers, James had to carry the load by himself at times. Thursday night, however, was a collective effort from the entire Big Three, reminiscent of the team that won the championship last season.
If they can continue to play this way in Game 5, they can return to Miami up three games to two.
3. The Heat stopped settling
Throughout the series, the Spurs have been daring the Heat to take jump shots. Their defensive strategy has been to give up the long shots and protect the paint. Until Game 4, that strategy had worked. The Heat decided to attack the rim more often in Game 4—and it paid off.
Miami had 50 points in paint compared to the Spurs' 38.
James, especially, stopped settling. He took only two shots from behind the arc, and everything else was in or around the paint area. Miami shot 73.3 percent on drives to the basket in Game 4. The Heat are much more efficient when they attack the rim and should look to do so in Game 5.
San Antonio Spurs takeaways
1. Tony Parker may not be healthy
After he strained his hamstring in Game 3, no one was sure what to expect from Tony Parker in Game 4. He was a game-time decision to even play, but it was unclear how effective he would be once he suited up.
Parker got off to a hot start, showing everybody that he was fine. In the first half, he finished with 15 points while shooting 7-of-12 from the floor. The second half, however, was a different story.
Parker was held scoreless in the second half, and Miami pulled away for the win. Parker is the catalyst for the Spurs offense, and they need him to come through in Game 5 to avoid another home loss.
2. Danny Green and Gary Neal are X-factors
The Spurs have their version of the Big Three, but they have not been as effective. Parker was playing through an injury, Ginobili has been struggling mightily and Duncan is showing signs of old age.
The role players for the Spurs have been the ones keeping them in this series. More specifically: Gary Neal and Danny Green have been using the three ball to keep San Antonio in games.
Both of these guys had podium games in Game 3, raining threes from all over the place and combining for 51 points. In Game 4, they only combined for 23 points. They will each have to do better in Game 5 if San Antonio hopes to come away with a big win.
3. San Antonio must take care of the ball
Turnovers are crucial at this point in the season. The Spurs absolutely must take care of the ball. Their 18 turnovers in Game 4 are way too many to beat Miami.
The Heat thrive on forcing turnovers and converting on the fast break. San Antonio cannot afford to lose possessions while giving the Heat easy points and momentum. If they continue to turn the ball over like that, they do not have a chance in Game 5.