NBA Finals: Lakers win 102-96 to go 3-1 up against Heat
The Los Angeles Lakers are a game away from winning their first championship in 10 years after they beat Miami Heat 102-96 to go 3-1 up in the NBA Finals.
Their last title in 2010 was led by Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January.
LeBron James starred with 28 points for the Lakers, while Anthony Davis’ crucial three-pointer saw them edge clear late in the fourth quarter.
Game five of the seven-match series is on Friday at 21:00h.
“We understand what’s at stake,” said James. “The job is not done. Not yet. But they’re on the brink.”
The Heat had started the game high in confidence after winning the last match, but the Lakers’ defence stood firm led by the superb Davis.
In the dying seconds of Miami’s victory in game three, Heat’s 40-point star Jimmy Butler warned James that the Lakers were “in trouble”.
And for the opening part of game four, Butler’s comments were vindicated as James struggled to gain any rhythm in the attritional affair near Orlando, Florida.
Miami, who were boosted by the return of Bam Adebayo from a neck injury, were able to negate the early threat of James and Davis as they came from behind to lead 33-29 in the second quarter.
But the Lakers rallied in the third and James’ influence began to grow as he claimed his first three-pointer of the night with a 29-foot effort to put the Lakers 55-54 ahead.
The Heat remained in the contest and Butler tied the game at 83-83 in the fourth. But Davis’ three-pointer with 39.5 seconds left on the clock and a block on a Butler layup attempt all but sealed victory for the Lakers.
‘A perfect game is not going to happen’
James acknowledged his slow start afterwards, saying a “perfect” game is not always possible.
“That doesn’t mean you still don’t strive to be as great as you can be every night,” he said.
“Tonight was one of those games where we had to win on the defensive end and make some timely shots.”
Despite his heroics in game three, Butler was restricted to 22 points as he was shadowed by the impressive Davis throughout the contest.
“He challenges me every night, I challenge him every night,” James said of Davis. “We have to do things to help our team win, defensively, and offensively, and he did that tonight — he was spectacular.”
The Miami shooting guard said his side know they have to play “near perfect” if they want to save the series in game five.
“We know we’ve got to be better. We know that we can be better,” said Butler.
“We’ve got to play damn near perfect to beat them, and we didn’t do that tonight.” (BBC Sport)