The Miami Heat seemingly faced an uphill battle going against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference playoff series without its starting point guard, Kyle Lowry, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury. However, there was no need to worry.
The Heat absolutely dominated the Hawks with a 110-86 win on Sunday, April 24, and while Gabe Vincent filled in for Lowry in the starting lineup, head coach Erik Spoelstra also gave guard Victor Oladipo a chance to record his first postseason minutes. He closed the night with six points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
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While Oladipo delivering meaningful minutes won’t come as a huge surprise, the two-time All-Star put up 40 points against the Orlando Magic during his last game appearance on April 10, Spoelstra didn’t commit to playing him prior to tipoff, and Bam Adebayo made it clear that Vincent was Lowry’s true backup — not Oladipo.
There was also doubt that Oladipo would see any action due to a recent report from Fox Sports 1’s Skip Bayless, who said during an appearance on his show, Undisputed: Skip and Shannon, that there’s a calculated reason for why the 29-year-old guard was being kept on the sidelines. According to his sources, he wasn’t playing because Heat starter Jimmy Butler refuses to share the court with him:
I’m thinking, if you could bring him off the bench with Tyler Herro, do you not have some explosive bench numbers? Right? Manu Ginobili-esque coming off the bench. So, you got some shock troops that could just heat you up for the Heat, if you can use Victor Oladipo…
Both games, he has not seen the light of play. Why is that? Well I was told it’s because Jimmy just flat-out told Spo, ‘I don’t want to share the floor with him.’
During the postgame conference on Sunday night, Butler addressed the rumored report. Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang tweeted, “As Victor Oladipo finished his postgame presser, Jimmy Butler said: ‘Tell them how I much I hate you.’ Victor Oladipo then said: ‘Jimmy hates me, guys.’ The two then hugged.”
During Butler’s presser, the wing said that Bayless’ report, despite it coming out just before the team’s playoff run, didn’t bother him at all. “I’m used to it. I’m always the bad guy,” Butler said. “That’s okay. Bad guys are welcome here in the Miami Heat organization. But I love my guys and as you can see, Vic was a huge part of us winning tonight.”
“It’s tough,” Butler continued. “He deserves to play, ya know? But that’s not my call. I don’t talk to anybody about it. I just always tell him, you be who you are and stay aggressive because when your number is called – which it was — you see what happened.”
Butler Absolutely Went Off Against the Hawks in Game 4
Missing the game-winning shot during Game 3 must’ve lit a fire under Butler because went off against the Hawks in Game 4. He led the team with 36 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals, and zero turnovers.
Forward P.J. Tucker also had a huge game, with 14 points and eight rebounds. Adebayo added another 14 points, Max Strus (12), and Vincent (11). While the State Farm Arena in Atlanta cleared out early on Sunday night, “Let’s Go Heat!” could be heard from a dedicated fan section in the crowd.
The Heat Can Clinch the Series With a Game 5 Win
The Heat are just one win away from punching their ticket to the next round, and because they entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed, Game 5 brings the Heat back to the FTX Arena in Miami on Tuesday, April 26.
With Oladipo’s ability to step up and be completely in sync with the rest of the team, the Heat can likely rest Lowry for Game 5 without stress.