The Miami Heat outlasted the Nets down the stretch to win a classic 102-96 in Game 4 at Barclays Center to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the semifinal series.
The game started off chippy, as Paul Pierce and Shane Battier, two of the calmest guys in the sport, started arguing and got into each other’s faces, resulting in technical fouls for each just four minutes into it. Later, Alan Anderson, who got into it with Ray Allen, got physical with LeBron James, and each was assessed a technical foul for that at the 5:12 mark of the first.
Miami had a 56-49 lead at halftime, as LeBron James had 25 points in the half. In the third quarter, the Nets got on a roll and a Kevin Garnett slam dunk made it 65-63 Miami with 7:01 left. The Nets were down 73-71 with 3:38 left in the third, and Joe Johnson missed a three. James missed a three for Miami, so the Nets had another chance to tie the game, and Deron Williams missed a three. Miami went back up two possessions when Ray Allen drained a three to make it 76-71 Heat.
The Nets continued to rely on the three for the rest of the third, as Alan Anderson hit a three to make it 77-76 Heat with 1:45 left. After a stop, instead of going for a basket to take the lead, Mirza Teletovic missed a three. The Nets trailed 79-76 going into the fourth, and it was due to their overreliance on the three-point shot, which was not falling tonight. Miami knew just how they wanted to guard them, man-to-man on the perimeter and force the Nets to take threes, which they have a propensity to do, while covered.
In the fourth, the Nets started to drive the lane, something that worked well in Game 3. Paul Pierce slammed home a dunk on a drive down the lane that finally gave the Nets a lead, at 80-79, a minute into the final quarter. The lead went back and fourth, and a Pierce finger roll followed by a Shaun Livingston layup made it 86-84 with 7:25 left.
The Nets had the lead until Chris Bosh hit a three from the top of the key to make it 89-87 Heat with 5:50 left. Pierce responded a couple of possessions later with a lay-up that floated in and he was fouled, and after he hit the free throw to complete the three-point play, it was 90-89 Nets.
James responded with a three and a layup to make it 94-92, and Garnett was fouled by James, which was his fifth foul, to get to the line. KG hit both free throws to tie the game at 94. After Garnett and Johnson missed jumpers, Chris Bosh hit an open three in the corner to make it 97-94 Miami with just 57.3 seconds left, and the only noise in the building was the decent amount of Heat fans cheering.
LeBron James said of that three by Bosh, “The sequence went with me setting a high pick-and-roll for D-Wade, and they kind of missed up the coverage, so D-Wade was able to hit me down the middle. I went to attack KG, came off of CB (Bosh), and I already knew exactly what was about to happen. So, once I saw KG rotate to me, I spun in the paint, threw it to Rio (point guard Mario Chalmers), and already knew it would find CB. As soon as it got from Rio, I knew it would be good from CB.”
On if they were setting up Bosh for threes, Spoelstra said, “Yeah, that last one was right in his wheelhouse, the corner one. The swing-swing three is his very best one but when he’s open out there and he’s creating a lot of spacing for us we don’t want him thinking that’s the worst thing for a shooter. So we can sit back and judge every single three and say “is this the right one? Is that the right one?” Our three-point shooters, we want them having a free mind and he is one of our best ones but he has a tougher balance than the rest of our three-point shooters as he has to do a lot of other things as well.”
The Nets had one of their worst possessions after it, as there was no ball movement except for a pass to Johnson. He was guarded by James and could not get open. Johnson started at the three-point line and tried to draw a foul on LeBron as he tried a weak floater that barely grazed the rim with 40.9 seconds left.
Since there was plenty of time left, the Nets did not foul and forced James into a tough shot, which he missed, but Dwyane Wade got the offensive rebound. Livingston fouled him, but because the Nets were not over the limit, had to foul again on the inbounds, which was Livingston again on one of the best free throw shooters around, Ray Allen.
Allen hit both to make it 99-94 Miami with 10.9 seconds left. Mirza Teletovic got a layup with 7.1 seconds left, the Nets’ first basket since the Pierce finger roll at the 4:25 mark. Allen sealed the win with a couple free throws with 5.4 seconds left that made it 101-96 Heat.
LeBron James led Miami with 48 points on 16-for-24 from the field, 3-6 on three-pointers and 14-19 from the free throw line.
LeBron said of his night, “I’m just happy I was able to make enough plays to help our team win – that’s all that matters. It definitely wasn’t that easy, may look that way, but it’s hard work and dedication to all our guys, and we put in a great effort to get this game…I felt the need that we needed to win this game. Whatever I needed to do to help us win, it needed to be done. Offensively, defensively, being the leader that I am on the floor just trying to help us overcome any adversity the game presents itself.”
Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra said of LeBron, “Yeah, I mean he reads the game, he reads the game as well as anybody that’s played this game and does whatever is needed. He was simply indefatigable, is that how you say it? Just the entire game, on both end of the court, having to manage foul trouble and make plays on both ends. But he did it and his aggressiveness was within the context of what we do. It can’t be one on five against this team, as talented as he is, you have to execute offense and he’s the best end of offense option that there is but he was reading the game. The biggest play of the game after scoring that many points was getting off the ball. It’s a play he’s been criticized many times in our three years for making that type of play that led to a hockey assist to CB (Chris Bosh). He was fantastic tonight, it wasn’t anything we talked about, he just has a way of sensing what we need.”
Along with James’ 49, Dwyane Wade had 15, and Chris Bosh had 12. The Big Three combined for 76 of the Heat’s 102 points. Ray Allen had 11 points on 3-for-7 from the field and 1-for-5 on three-pointers.
The Nets had a tough night from behind the arc, as they shot a miserable 5-for-22 on three-point attempts. They also got poor shooting nights from their backcourt, as Joe Johnson and Deron Williams combined to shoot 10-for-29. Johnson had a quiet 18 points on 5-for-15 from the field and 2-for-7 on threes, with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. D-Will came up small once again, as he shot 5-for-14, including 1-for-3 on threes, with 7 assists and 6 rebounds.