The Los Angeles Lakers took a commanding 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals by leaning on the thing that has defined their greatness all season: defense. The Lakers not only held the Miami Heat to 96 points, their lowest output of the postseason, but they also did so with a key tactical adjustment, putting Anthony Davis on Jimmy Butler, which shut down the man who torched the Lakers in Game 3.
It’s a testament to the Brow’s versatility that head coach Frank Vogel would consider putting him on Butler. Davis is a 7-footer who almost always defends bigs. But Davis is a phenomenal athlete, and after Butler dominated the Lakers in the paint in Game 3, AD and LeBron James made sure that didn’t happen again. Of Butler’s 17 shots, 15 were defended by Davis or James.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale
These are not the Showtime Lakers. This team has been a defensive juggernaut all season, and the Lakers flexed those muscles in Game 4. Their defensive efficiency in the half court improved to 98.6 points allowed per 100 possessions in Game 4 after they gave up 123.9 in Games 2 and 3, according to Second Spectrum.
While Butler started strong and finished poorly, James did the opposite. After an awkward first quarter that included five turnovers, James ended the game as the leading scorer and leading rebounder. A remarkable 20 of his 28 points came in a pivotal second half that brought his team within one win of a title.
If there was one sequence that epitomized this game, it happened late in the fourth quarter. With the Lakers up 90-88 and 3:05 remaining, Butler missed an open corner 3. James grabbed the board, pushed the ball up the floor and delivered a crisp transition dime to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who drained a corner 3.
Caldwell-Pope was the X factor for the purple and gold, scoring 15 points and adding five assists. The Lakers are 12-1 this postseason when he scores at least 10 points, and his 3-point shooting has given this team a huge lift. KCP has made 40 3-pointers in the postseason, tied for second most in a playoffs in Lakers history. Only Kobe Bryant in 2010 had more 3s.china nike nfl jerseys cheap
From Miami’s perspective, the absence of Goran Dragic loomed large. With Davis and James able to focus on containing Butler, the Heat didn’t have enough firepower elsewhere.
Dragic is more than just this team’s starting point guard. He was also its leading scorer coming into these Finals. In the conference finals against the Boston Celtics, Dragic ran more than 24 pick-and-roll plays per game, per Second Spectrum. With a starting PG on the shelf, Miami’s half-court options aren’t good enough to overpower one of the best defenses in the league, even with Bam Adebayo back in the fold.
Adebayo played OK in his return to action, but his playmaking was not up to his high standards. Adebayo ended the game with just one assist, his lowest such mark since January.
Unfortunately, injuries are a fact of life in the NBA, and for the second straight year, the Finals have been affected by them.