The Miami Heat are one win away from their first NBA Finals trip since 2014.
The Heat defeated the Boston Celtics 112-109 in Wednesday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Walt Disney World Resort. They lead the series 3-1 after Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic spearheaded the latest effort with impressive performances.
Herro was the biggest story, taking over the game a number of times off the bench as the best player on the floor for extended stretches.
As for the Celtics, they will now need to win three in a row to make the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 after Jayson Tatum's brilliant second half was not enough Wednesday. That is a daunting task considering the Heat have lost two total games throughout the playoffs.
Notable Player Stats
- Tyler Herro, G, MIA: 37 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST
- Jimmy Butler, F, MIA: 24 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST
- Bam Adebayo, F, MIA: 20 PTS, 12 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL
- Goran Dragic, G, MIA: 22 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL
- Jayson Tatum, F, BOS: 28 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST, 3 BLK
- Jaylen Brown, G, BOS: 21 PTS, 9 REB
- Kemba Walker, G, BOS: 20 PTS, 5 AST, 4 REB
The Tyler Herro Game
Miami lost Game 3, but it wasn't all bad news for the team.
Herro showed no fear while pouring in 22 points off the bench as someone who can hit from the outside when defenders collapse on Butler and Adebayo or attack the lane on his own if needed.
The rookie finding a rhythm is critical for the Heat because he helps the trio of Butler, Adebayo and Dragic match Boston's group of players who can carry the offense in Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward.
Herro picked up right where he left off at the start of Wednesday's contest, hitting from the outside and driving whenever Boston collapsed on his perimeter shooting. He also battled on the boards and helped stake the Heat to a quick lead with Adebayo and Butler playing the role of supporting actors.
Miami saw its 12-point lead disappear in the second half, but the University of Kentucky product still had an answer.
He started the fourth quarter with a quick three and pull-up jumper before mixing in another three and reverse layup. It seemed as if Herro countered every Celtics run, including when he drilled a deep three over the outstretched arm of Marcus Smart to push the lead to eight with just more than four minutes remaining.
The usual stars closed it for Miami after Boston pulled within three. Dragic and Butler scored in the lane, Dragic then hit a three and Butler found a cutting Herro for a layup. Fittingly, Herro and Butler made the free throws to clinch it.
If Herro continues to play like he did in Wednesday's contest while the Heat's typical leaders deliver in crunch time, they may just leave Walt Disney World with a championship.
Tatum's Turnaround Effort Goes for Naught
It was frankly surprising the Celtics were within striking distance and down just six at halftime.
Tatum, who averaged 25.3 points in the first three games as their clear go-to option, did not score a single point in the first half while missing all six of his field-goal attempts. It was partially a credit to Miami's group defensive effort with Jae Crowder, Adebayo and others chasing him around the floor, but it was still a stunning development.
Tatum contributed on the glass while Walker and Brown picked up the slack on offense, but it was difficult to envision the Celtics coming back in the game or series without their best offensive option finding his touch.
He did just that, pouring in 16 points in the third quarter alone behind back-to-back triples, multiple and-1 plays and a mid-range shot in the final seconds to trim the deficit to a mere one point.
It was certainly a worrisome development for a Heat squad that failed to pull away when he was struggling, and Boston took the lead in the fourth quarter when Brown assisted a Daniel Theis dunk.
Still, the Celtics didn't have enough in crunch time with so many members of the Heat contributing, especially with turnovers undercutting all their comeback efforts. Boston turned it over 19 times compared to just eight for Miami, and Tatum's turnaround effort was wasted.
Unless it carries over to the rest of the series and he leads his side to a dramatic comeback.
Game 5 of the series is Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET.