By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted May 25 2011 11:36AM
MIAMI -- Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals was another instant classic in what has been a terrific postseason. With the Miami Heat looking to take complete control of the series and the Chicago Bulls looking to regain home-court advantage, the fourth quarter and overtime was arguably the most important 17 minutes of basketball that we've witnessed this season.
And there's a ton of plays, storylines and numbers to digest from the Heat's 101-93 victory that put them one win away from The Finals and gave the Bulls their first three-game losing streak of the season.
First, the overview: It was another defensive victory for the Heat, who held the Bulls to 93 points on 96 possessions and just 40 percent shooting from the field. Since getting burned for 126 points per 100 possessions in Game 1, Miami has held Chicago to just 96 points per 100 over the last three games.
The series isn't over, but thus far, the Heat have proven to be the best defensive team left in the playoffs.
Derrick Rose's inability to break through the Miami defense was the story before Game 4 and it should continue to be the story in the aftermath, despite a few spectacular plays. Rose was inefficient once again, needing 27 shots to score 23 points, and turning the ball over seven times.
Rose got to the basket more than he had in any of the first three games, but was 3-for-17 from beyond five feet. He shot well from distance in Game 1, but has been progressively worse as the series has gone on.
|Derrick Rose's shooting, conference finals|
Included in the 3-for-17 was an awful 1-for-9 from 3-point range. Rose has now attempted at least nine threes in a game six times this season. Amazingly, three of those times have been in the playoffs, and he hasn't hit more than one of the nine in any of the three. He was 0-for-9 in Game 1 vs. Indiana, 1-for-9 in Game 4 vs. Indiana, and 1-for-9 in Game 4 against the Heat.
After the game, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau noted Rose's lack of free throw attempts and said that his point guard "hasn't gotten the calls." Rose isn't getting to the free-throw line as much as he did in the regular season, but he's actually getting there more than he did against Atlanta in the conference semifinals.
|Derrick Rose's free throw rate|
|FTA Rate = FTA/FGA|
If there's one number that stands out from the Game 4 boxscore, it's Mike Miller's plus-36 in 26 minutes, an incredible number considering the game went to overtime.
Miller's plus-36 is the second-highest mark of the postseason, behind Dirk Nowitzki's plus-37 in the Mavs' Game 4 blowout of the Lakers. Miller's mark is also tied for the 20th highest single-game plus-minus mark of the season. That doesn't exactly distinguish it, but consider this: The teams of the 20 other players who have had a plus-36 or higher this season won those games by an average of 40.4 points. Miller's team won by eight.
The closest to such a narrow margin of victory was Luis Scola's plus-39 in a 16-point victory over Memphis. Every other player that posted a plus-36 or better this season did it in a victory by 25 points or more.
Miller played well. He seemed to discover confidence in his jumper and his five field goals were the third-most he's made all season. But the plus-36 is obviously a little fluky. In the first half, Miller checked in right at the start of the Heat's 27-9 run that spanned the first and second quarters and turned a nine-point deficit into a nine-point lead. And right after he checked out, the Bulls got the lead back before halftime.
The story was similar in the second half, when the Bulls built their lead early and the Heat got back into the game with the second units on the floor. For the game, Miami outscored Chicago 69-33 when Miller was on the floor.
|Game 4 scoring|
|OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions|
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
Of course, the bad news regarding Miller's remarkable plus-minus is that the Heat starters were underwhelming, getting outscored 36-21 in their 18 minutes together on Tuesday.
Slow starts were a big problem for the Heat in the first round and early in the conference semifinals. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra changed his starting lineup, replacing Zydrunas Ilgauskas with Joel Anthony in Game 4 against Boston, and things seemed to right themselves.
The Heat starters have been fine defensively in the series, but they've been outscored 95-86 by the Bulls' starters. And over the four games, Miami has scored an anemic 85 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter, compared to 111 points per 100 possessions in quarters 2-4.
Miami may be struggling at the start of games in these playoffs, but they've been terrific at the end. The Heat shot 9-for-15 from the field in "clutch" situations on Tuesday and are now outscoring their opponents 90-52 in clutch situations in the postseason.
Clutch situation = Last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, with a score differential of five points or less.
Interestingly, all 15 of those field goal attempts late in Game 4 were from inside the arc. Before Tuesday, the Heat had taken 14 of their 46 (30 percent) of their clutch postseason shots from 3-point range.
Chris Bosh (2-for-3 from the field, 4-for-4 from the line) and LeBron James (3-for-5, 1-for-1) combined for 15 of the Heat's 23 clutch points, but Mike Miller (2-for-2) and Dwyane Wade (2-for-5) each had a pair of buckets as well.
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|Highlight of the Night|
Memphis' Mike Conley drives between the Spurs defenders and gets the reverse layup to go high off the glass.
|Grizzlies vs. Spurs Game 1 Analysis|
Steve Smith and Brent Barry breakdown Game 1 between Memphis and San Antonio and explain why the Grizzlies are down 1-0 to the Spurs.
|Grizzlies vs. Spurs: Game 1|
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|Grizzlies-Spurs: Game 2 Preview|
Steve Smith and Brent Barry look ahead to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals Tuesday at 9p ET on ESPN.
|Press Pass: Gasol and Pondexter|
Marc Gasol and Quincy Pondexter talk with the media after the Grizzlies lose Game 1 to the Spurs.