Heat get chance Friday to oust Celtics, reach NBA Finals

NBA

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP)The volume of text messages that Miami guard Tyler Herro got after Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals was overwhelming. He didn’t have time to reply to most, including close friends who reached out to celebrate the best game of his life.

Among those who did get texts back from Herro: Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade, a couple of players who know what it’s like to win an Eastern Conference title with the Heat.

”Shaq hit me up, D-Wade hit me up,” Herro said Thursday. ”D-Wade, we’ve talked a couple times after playoff games. He says `good game’ and gives me some tips on what he’s seeing when he’s watching.”

Herro and the Heat seem to be putting those tips to good use. They’re one win from the NBA Finals, leading the Boston Celtics 3-1 in this East title series with Game 5 – the possible clincher – awaiting Friday night at Walt Disney World.

There was no celebratory tones at the optional Heat practice Thursday. They know how close the series has been, with perhaps the biggest proof being the composite score of the four games – Celtics 441, Heat 441.

”You just have to continue to try to get better as the series goes on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”It’ll be two extremely desperate, urgent teams. That’s what it’s all about in the playoffs.”

The closeness of the games works both ways: While it serves as a reason for the Heat to be cautious, it also works as a reason for the Celtics to be optimistic. No Boston team has successfully rallied from a 3-1 deficit since 1981, though the Celtics have no reason to feel like they’ve been overmatched in this series either.

”I believe that if we put forth our best effort, if we are locked in on what we need to accomplish and we play with great authority and confidence, then we can win any given game,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. ”That’s what you have to go into any game with. You don’t play the score of the series as much as you play the importance of each possession. I think that that’s the bottom line. We have to play each possession with the utmost importance.”

Finding an answer for Herro is probably of the utmost importance as well.

The 20-year-old rookie scored 37 points in Miami’s Game 4 win, helping carry Miami on a night where Jae Crowder and Duncan Robinson – two of the best 3-point shooters on the Heat roster – were a combined 1 for 14 from the floor, 1 for 11 from 3-point range.

”Herro got going, obviously, at a ridiculous level,” Stevens said. ”But he’s very capable of that.”

Here’s some things to know going into Game 5 on Friday:

HEALTH UPDATE

Heat center Bam Adebayo (shoulder) got plenty of ice and treatment after Game 4, and Miami expects him to be ready for Game 5. Spoelstra noted it’s been a physical series for everybody, adding ”I think everybody knows on both sides what to expect.”

RECORD SHOOTING

The free-throw shooting in this series has been like no other East title matchup. The teams are combining to make 83.6% of their free throws through four games, putting this on pace to become the best East finals from the foul line ever. The 1974 East finals between Boston and New York saw those clubs combine to shoot 83.0% from the foul line. Boston’s 84.7% clip in this series is on pace to be the best single-team showing in an Eastern Conference finals ever as well; Indiana shot 84.3% in the 2000 East title series.

BALANCED HEAT

In Game 4, Herro became the fifth different Heat player to lead the team in scoring so far in these playoffs, joining Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson. ”They’ve got so many good players,” Stevens said.

5 SEEDS

Miami could be the first No. 5 seed to ever make the NBA Finals. Lower seeds have gotten there – No. 8 New York in 1999, and sixth-seeded Houston in both 1981 and 1995 – but the Heat would be the first team seeded No. 5 to do so.

BIG FINISH

Boston’s Jayson Tatum scored all 28 of his points in Game 4 after halftime. He became the first Celtic to score 28 points in the second half of a playoff game since Ray Allen, who had 28 of his 30 points in the final two quarters to lead Boston to a 118-115 win over Chicago on April 20, 2009. Isaiah Thomas had 33 points after halftime in Boston’s win over Washington on May 2, 2017, but the last nine of those came in overtime.

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