Miami Heat need to finish stronger in fourth
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI – During the regular season, when the Miami Heat had a fourth-quarter lead, it was almost an automatic victory. Teams rarely stole a victory from the Heat in those circumstances.
That’s not the case in the playoffs.
A disconcerting trend – small sample size acknowledged – has emerged in the postseason for the Heat: in four of their five playoffs losses, they had a fourth-quarter lead only to squander it down the stretch.
It is the antithesis of how the Heat performed during the regular season when they went for the kill in the fourth quarter and finished with a league-best 66-16 record.
A fourth-quarter lead disappeared again for Miami in San Antonio’s 92-88 victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
The Heat led 76-73 early in the fourth quarter but were outscored 19-12 in the final 8:08 – a span in which the Heat shot 3-for-10 from the field, including 0-for-4 on three-pointers, and committed four turnovers.
“We just had some very empty possessions where we didn’t get to anything,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “Got to some random sets and we had a couple of turnovers that we’re not really accustomed to having. We played a very efficient game, but in the fourth quarter we kind of got a little sloppy when we’re usually really good.”
The defensive and offensive efficiency in Miami’s 16-point fourth quarter bothered Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
“Some of those possessions defensively we didn’t finish it to a rebound or finish it to that last tenth of a second to get the stop,” Spoelstra said. “Sixteen points isn’t enough, and we weren’t efficient enough offensively.
“Even though we only had 16 points in the fourth, there was still a handful of possessions, that even if we had to win that thing ugly with an 18-, 20-point fourth quarter, we had that opportunity. But we couldn’t close out those possessions.”
Now, a three- or four-point lead in the playoffs against quality opponents is not a fail-safe advantage, but the Heat have taken great pride in finishing off opponents in those situations.
During the regular season, Miami led the league in … [For more on Miami Heat need to finish stronger in fourth quarter, click here.]