On a night during which Tyler Herro became only the third rookie to score in double figures in each of his first 13 playoff games, the former Kentucky star led the Miami Heat to a commanding 3-1 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals with a huge 37-point outing.
The teams were made to square up on Wednesday night after playing Game 3 on Saturday night, with the NBA keen on avoiding televised NFL gameplay.
Miami, unlike they had in the first three games, started out strong but great defense and equally poor shooting from both sides saw to a scrappy game, with Boston All-Star Jayson Tatum going for a duck in the first half. It would take him past six minutes in the third quarter to get his first points on the board with one from long range; that would be all he needed as he led the Celtics in scoring with 28 on the night.
Herro, meanwhile, was everything Miami needed on the night and he hit a number of key baskets down the stretch. His 37 points are the most scored by a player not yet aged 21 in the playoffs since Magic Johnson had himself a game way back in 1980 – what’s more, the rookie came off the bench (actually a record as he’s the youngest player ever to score more than 30 as a non-starter in the playoffs).
The Celtics, who trailed by as many as 12 in the third quarter, went into the fourth just one down and took the lead for a brief period in the ensuing quarter.
Bam Adebayo was also crucial for Miami, posting a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds and gave Erik Spoelstra that defensive presence in the paint he so desperately needed after the Celtics scored 60 paint points in Game 3. The All-Star big man reached a Heat milestone by virtue of said stats – slipping into third place behind LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal for most playoff double-doubles in his team’s uniform – but hurt his wrist towards the end of the game and not much is known as it pertains to his status at the moment.
The Heat looked to be headed to a comfortable win, with a nine-point lead with under a minute to go. However, big threes from Tatum and Jaylen brought them back down to earth, with Brown hitting his with 16 seconds left on the clock.
Three made free throws from Kemba Walker cut the lead down to just two points after Miami had inched ahead again just a bit. Jimmy Butler, who had 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists on the night, stretched the lead to four with two clutch free throws after Herro put the Heat back up by five but saw the gap cut down yet again. A timely putback from Gordon Hayward on the other end kept things uncomfortable for Miami – just two ahead – but Butler would make one of his two free throws to secure the win at the end.
Boston got a final possession with just over one second remaining but, with no timeouts, had to fling the ball up-court, leading to the likely turnover and a 112-109 win for the Heat.