Three Things to Know 20201005

Lakers vs. Heat, Finals Game 4: Three Things to Know (10/6/20)

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers dropped Game 3 of the Finals as Miami pulled within 2-1 in the series. Here are three things to know in advance of Tuesday’s Game 4:

With 4:16 left in the first quarter of Game 3, Anthony Davis was whistled for his second personal foul, just 32 seconds after he was called for an offensive foul. Davis went to the bench having not taken a shot, and he had four of L.A.’s eventual 10 turnovers in the quarter, as they trailed 21-9 when he went to the bench.

When he returned at the 9:00 mark of the second quarter, LeBron, Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris had led a comeback that had L.A. within a point at 30-29, and things were looking up as Davis drilled a three, then threw down a reverse alley-oop from Rajon Rondo.

But moments later, with 5:28 to play, Kelly Olynyk flopped on the perimeter, and the call went against Davis, who was trying to dribble to his right from the right wing. Davis sat for the rest of the quarter, and went into halftime with five points, one rebound, five turnovers and the three fouls. This, after he entirely dominated Miami in Game 2, making 14 of his first 15 shots.

Unfortunately for Davis and the Lakers, things weren’t much different in the second half, when he was whistled for his fourth foul at the 10:22 mark. Frank Vogel trusted him to play through the foul trouble, but it clearly impacted Davis’ aggression on both ends, and he wasn’t able to join LeBron in the two-man game that kept Miami down by double digits for nearly all of Games 1 and 2.

“It had an impact,” said Davis, who finished with just 15 points after averaging 33 in the Games 1 and 2. “It takes away the aggressiveness on both ends of the floor that I'm used to playing with, and those guys like to take charges or whatever, and you know, try to draw offensive fouls. Still got to be better and still got to find ways to affect the game on both ends of the floor, but it definitely took me out and put a little bit too much pressure on the other guys.”

“One of the shots he made when he had four fouls, they still tried to slide underneath him and get him a fifth in the third,” added LeBron. “I think the foul trouble made him a little passive, because he wanted to be out on the floor but he couldn't be his aggressive self offensively and defensively. I think the fouls slowed him down a lot tonight.”

Game 4 should bring a much different AD from Game 3, and thus, a much different game for the Lakers that more closely resembles his average playoff game of nearly 30 points with 10 boards, over three assists and over one block and one steal per night.

And yet, the Lakers can’t just blame Davis’ foul trouble for their Game 3 struggles, of course. In fact, they were already down 20-9 when he picked up his first, due mostly to ridiculous number of turnovers they conceded early...

There are a few immediate indicators on an NBA box score that coaches will look at before starting their postgame press conference with members of the media. After Game 3, Frank Vogel had plenty of areas upon which to focus.

He could point to Miami’s 52-34 advantage in the paint, which is basically the opposite of a typical Lakers margin. He could look at the lack of blocked shots, as LeBron had his team’s only two swats, both coming against rookie Tyler Herro. Nobody else on the squad had a block despite all the time Miami spent at L.A.’s rim.

But the most obvious place to focus was the turnovers. The Lakers committed 20 miscues, well above their playoff average of 15, after they totaled 21 in Games 1 and 2 combined. Much of the damage was done right away in the first quarter, as L.A. committed 10 turnovers, watching Miami separate on the scoreboard, and putting them in a position to chase the game all evening.

After tremendous ball control in Games 1 and 2 – LeBron had 18 assists to just 2 turnovers – he alone had eight miscues in Game 3.

“It starts with me,” said LeBron. “I take full responsibility for that. I'll be a lot better on Tuesday with that, understanding that they are very good with their hands. They are very good with the stripping. You can't allow this team to have extra possessions.”

After the game, I asked Vogel if he thought the turnovers were emblematic of effort.

“It wasn't about effort,” he responded. “It was just about execution, but again credit their defense. They played a terrific game, forced a lot of those turnovers. We'll look at the tape and see how we can be better.”

So on Monday, before L.A.’s practice but after Vogel had watched the tape, I asked him what stood out about the early turnovers.

“Good defense,” he replied. “You know, credit the Miami Heat. We were careless in some situations, but I think they took four charges throughout the game, they fronted the post, forced us to make difficult post entry passes. So a lot of it was their defense, them being active with their hands. This is what they're great at, and we didn't handle it well enough.”

Heat center Bam Adebayo was upgraded to questionable on Miami’s injury report, seemingly increasing the likelihood that he can play in Game 4.

“I'm getting better,” said Bam before Monday’s practice. “It's up to the medical staff. I'm trying to get back as quickly as possible. They're just trying to make sure I'm safe and I'm ready to play. It's really day-to-day. When they say I'm ready to play, I'll be out there.”

His teammate Jimmy Butler stepped up like few have before with his 40-point triple-double, but Miami is certainly a much better team with Bam.

But the one thing Adebayo doesn’t do is space the floor from a shooting standpoint, which both Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk can do in his absence. Miami most often played with four shooters around Butler, and the Lakers were hesitant to come off said shooters, giving Butler lots of room to operate in isolation in the mid-range and the paint, where he loves to live.

“I mean, I think it's easy whenever you have the guys that I have around me,” said Butler. “So many good shooters that you can’t leave. Like I say, I have the easy job. They give me so many gaps to get into the paint, to shoot a pull-up J, to get to the free throw line. I'm going to continue to play that way. I take what the game gives me. Whatever my teammates ask me to do, I'm pretty sure if they ask me to go out there and make a couple threes, I'm capable of it, but if it's not broken, don't fix it.”

Butler did not in fact take a single 3-pointer towards his 40 points. He hit 13 of 16 shots in the paint, which includes several fadeaways with one foot on the edge of the lane, and was 14 of 20 overall from two, plus 12 of 14 at the foul line.

“We have to be a lot better,” said Davis. “We can't allow easy points. The game is already hard enough. Teams are going to make tough shots, but we can't allow them to get easy looks at the rim when no one is guarding them or not helping our guys, if a small is on Jimmy or a big is on a guard and knowing that their chances are pretty high that they're going to blow by them. We've got to protect each other. We have to help each other, and that wasn't the case last night, and a big reason why we lost.”

In sum, there are lots of adjustments available for the Lakers, and that’s something they’ve done extremely well all postseason. They’ve yet to lose back-to-back games throughout their 14-4 playoff run.

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