For a team trailing 2-1 in a playoff series, Game 4 is always a must-win scenario.
Today’s Game 4 against Indiana is still a must-win for the Heat, but for far more than the simple reason of having a shot to win the series.
Dwyane Wade walks off the court as the Pacers celebrate their 78-75 Game 2 victory. (Andrew Innerarity / Reuters)
The most basic reason the Heat need a victory is to avoid falling behind 3-1 in the series. This would not be the end for the Heat, but it would be a tough task to take three in a row against a Pacers team with all of the momentum in the series.
Besides that clear reason, the Heat need a win to get things back on the right track. Dwyane Wade cannot score five points, get in an argument with his coach, and be let off the hook. He also finished with the worst plus/minus of any player in the game at -25.
With Bosh out, Wade and LeBron need to combine for around 60 points for the Heat to have any shot of winning against the Pacers. If they can reach that scoring clip, then 25 points from Chalmers, as he had on Thursday, would surely make up for the void of Chris Bosh.
The biggest problem that the Heat face, and one of the main reasons why they struggled on Thursday, is their lack of depth beyond Bosh, James, and Wade. Mario Chalmers has stepped up this year as the best player outside of the Big Three, but he can not be expected to put up twenty points a game.
Especially with Bosh out, other players will need to step up. When Wade has a bad game, LeBron is not capable of doing it all by himself, as the lack of offensive threats leads to the Pacers keying in on him specifically.
Shane Battier is one of these players, and he had a forgettable performance on Thursday. In 23 minutes he had zero points and zero assists, which did nothing to help the Heat’s cause. He only has five points in the entire series in a total of 80 minutes. As a starter he will need to at least get into double digits in scoring to help his team.
Finding a combination of guys to play down low has become a special project for Erik Spoelstra in Bosh’s absence. He tried to put Dexter Pittman in the starting center spot, but he was clearly outmatched and only played three minutes in the game. Joel Anthony is usually in this spot, but he is not a scoring threat compared to Bosh.
The Heat have the ability to come out and quiet their critics with a win over Indiana, but LeBron and D-Wade will have to play near perfect basketball. Both will have to put up scoring in the 20s, along with at least one other player. This may be Mario Chalmers, or even a surprise player like Udonis Haslem or even Shane Battier.
It will need to be a near perfect effort by James and Wade for the Heat to win, which is in stark contrast to the total team game being played by the Pacers. Relying on two guys, (usually three when Bosh is healthy), is not a great way to combat a team that plays a total team game, so the outlook for the Heat is very gloomy if they can not find a way to win Game 4.