The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers will face off in Game 4 of the NBA Finals tonight. The Lakers hold the advantage in the series, up 2-1 after LeBron James and Anthony Davis picked apart the Heat with ease in the first two games. Then Jimmy Butler decided enough was enough in Game 3 and posted a 40-point triple-double to keep his team from falling into a 3-0 hole.
Butler has a chance to even it up tonight. This time, he'll have some reinforcements, as Bam Adebayo is expected to return after missing the end of Game 1 and all of Games 2 and 3 with a neck strain. The natural question is if it will be enough.
Butler played out of his damn mind in Game 3, but it's a lot to ask him to post those kinds of numbers on a nightly basis for his team to have a chance to win. Adebayo should be helpful, especially on the defensive end of the floor. The Lakers had an unusually bad shooting night from within the restricted area in Game 3, even without Adebayo out there. L.A. averages 48 points in the paint per game in the playoffs, but in Game 3, they only scored 28. Miami was playing stingy defense, sure, but the presence of Kelly Olynyk was not the main reason the Lakers couldn't finish in the paint. It was an off night.
Which means that there will be some regression to the mean coming. The Lakers should shoot much better in the restricted area, especially considering they scored 46 in each of the first two games of the series. After the pain Adebayo was in during Game 1, it seems unlikely he'll be 100 percent out there tonight. At the very least, he'll be rusty. It'll be hard for him to contribute much on the offensive end. But defensively, he can absolutely help. His presence alone is worth more than what Olynyk can do in that regard.
Even at full health, Adebayo isn't going to stonewall LeBron and AD when they get into the paint. But he can discourage them from getting there in the first place and at least make life difficult for them once they arrive. For the Heat to even the series, Butler will need to be as aggressive as he was in Game 3 and Miami's shooters need to put together an effective 48-minute stretch. But Adebayo will be big in preventing the Lakers from feasting in the paint, which will be a point of emphasis from Frank Vogel after Game 3's woes in that area.
Just like all playoffs, it'll be a team effort for Miami. The Heat got one big piece back, but he won't swing the series alone. It remains a tall task, but Adebayo will make it a little easier to overcome.