Rookie Tyler Herro exploded for 37 points for Miami to lead the Heat to a Game 4 victory over the Celtics, who were again flummoxed by Miami’s zone defense.
Three thoughts on Miami’s 112-109 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals …
Tyler Herro, Heat Hero
At 20, Herro is the youngest player in these conference finals. In Game 4, he was the best player on the floor.
After chipping in a postseason-high 22 points in Game 3, Herro exploded for 37 on Wednesday, the most scored by a rookie off the bench in a playoff game since at least the 1970-71 season. He shredded Boston’s defense with five three-pointers. He pulled down six rebounds. He connected on 14 of his 21 shots overall. He became the fourth age-20 or younger player to score 30-plus points in playoff game, joining Magic Johnson, Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings on that list.
With Duncan Robinson (three points) and Jae Crowder (three) struggling, Herro was there to pick up the slack. He went shot for shot with Jayson Tatum in the second half, leading Miami to a win and a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Stars win championships in the NBA but it’s players like Herro—the No. 13 pick in last June’s draft—that help them get there. Herro is fearless. With Kendrick Nunn dealing with health issues early in the restart, Herro seized a larger role. He’s averaging 36 minutes per game against Boston. He’s making 48% of his shots and 34% of his threes, numbers that would be significantly better if not for a Game 2 clunker.
On Wednesday, Herro scored 11 points in the second quarter, powering Miami to a six-point halftime lead. When Boston briefly took a one-point lead early in the fourth, Herro responded with eight points in four minutes. Herro plays with a swagger. Miami needed it in Game 4.
Miami zoned Boston out
For a moment, it seemed like the Celtics had figured out the zone defense the Heat had been playing most of the series.
In Game 3, Boston attacked the paint, piling up 60 points. In Game 4, they got away from it, scoring just 38, while firing up 40 threes.
Tatum’s final stat line (28 points on 10-for-22 shooting) wasn’t bad, but that’s only because he followed up a scoreless first half with a terrific second one. After attempting just two threes in Game 3, Marcus Smart (1-for-8) reverted to his gunslinging ways while Kemba Walker (3-for-8) struggled with his three-point shot.
You would think after playing Toronto that the Celtics would be comfortable against a zone by now, but Boston’s perimeter players continue to be lured into firing up contested jumpers while doubling up the Heat (19-8) in turnovers.
Bam Adebayo’s status looms large
Late in the fourth quarter, Adebayo got his left arm tangled up with Tatum’s. Adebayo stayed in, but his arm seemed to hang limply from his shoulder during breaks in the action. After the game, Adebayo admitted to a wrist injury, but insisted that he was OK.
“He’s icing it,” Erik Spoelstra said.
Still, it bears watching. As poorly as Boston played in Game 4, the Celtics had a chance to tie the game on the final possession. Adebayo, obviously, is crucial to Miami’s success. His potentially game-saving block in Game 1 set the tone for the rest of the series. He played a team-high 41 minutes in Game 4, posting 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The Heat effectively went with a seven-man rotation in Game 4—Solomon Hill played four minutes in the first half—so any injury that limits or takes out Adebayo moving forward would be damaging. With Miami’s three wins this series coming by a total of 11 points, the Heat will need Adebayo healthy to close Boston out.