Joe B.

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  1. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon After a strong 2016-17 campaign, James Johnson was named one of the HEAT’s captains entering this past season. He didn’t take that responsibility lightly. Click here for the full feature on HEAT.com.
  2. Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein After winning a gold medal for Slovenia and earning the MVP of EuroBasket in September, Goran Dragić kept up his sharp play with the HEAT and continued to rack up accolades. Click here to read the full feature on HEAT.com.
  3. Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon Even though Bam Adebayo grabbed a lot of people’s attention during Summer League, it was hard to imagine a 20-year-old rookie doing the same so early for the HEAT during the regular season. But he did. Click here to read the full feature on HEAT.com.
  4. Photo Credit: David Dow With the pain of missing the playoffs by the slimmest of margins ingrained in their memory, the HEAT entered the 2017-18 season seeking redemption. Take a look back at how Miami achieved that goal here.
  5. Joe B.

    Thank You

    From all of us at the Miami HEAT, thank you for your unwavering support all season long.
  6. Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant The Miami HEAT fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 104-91 Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Kelly Olynyk led the way for the HEAT with 18 points. Philadelphia wins the series 4-1. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com
  7. Photo Credit: David Dow The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Philadelphia leads the series 3-1. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What can we learn from Philadelphia’s late push to a Game 4 victory? Couper Moorhead: This won’t be a comforting statistic for anyone to read, but the 76ers were the first team to win a playoff game with 26 or more turnovers since 1986. For that to come up as the difference between a tied series and going on the road down 3-1 certainly can’t be easy for HEAT, but that’s the reality of the situation. Those turnovers, and 18 Miami steals, were by and large the reason the HEAT were playing with around a 10-point lead for much of the game. They were out attacking passing lanes, getting deflections (with over 20 for the third-straight game) and contesting every Philadelphia three possible (22.6 percent from distance). It was, in so many words, the HEAT playing a very HEAT game in every way you would expect, from the physicality to the discipline on display defensively, where they cut off drives and recovered to shooters. They were in control of both the game and the score. So how did the Sixers come back despite all of that? Six quick points from Ersan İlyasova, including a tough three, at the end of the third made it was four-point game headed into the final period. And then Philadelphia’s defense came alive, holding Miami to just 19 points in the period. And maybe that’s all there is to really learn. You can play some of your best basketball, but in a closely contested series against a talented opponent just one stretch of mistakes can cost you a handful on the scoreboard. Miami has done enough to beat a good number of teams, it just wasn’t quite enough to beat Philadelphia on Saturday. Joe Beguiristain: We just continued to see how tough the 76ers are. Even with some great defense by Miami for most of the contest (the HEAT totaled 18 steals, including seven from Josh Richardson) and a late offensive surge by Dwyane Wade (12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the fourth), Philadelphia never lost its composure. Much like in Game 3, the 76ers upped their defensive pressure and came through with timely offensive rebounds to escape with the narrow victory despite committing a whopping 27 turnovers. While J.J. Redick and Ben Simmons made some big plays late, the HEAT did a great job against Joel Embiid and made his catches tough throughout. In fact, Hassan Whiteside held Embiid to just 1-of-8 shooting and an unreal five turnovers. Bam Adebayo, meanwhile, fared just as well and limited the Cameroonian to 0-of-3 shooting and three turnovers. It would be unreasonable to expect that once again, but it will take that kind of effort from both bigs if Miami wants to come out ahead this time around. 2: Are there any adjustments Miami can make to try and force a Game 6? Couper: Erik Spoelstra will likely take a look at everything, from making lineup changes to changing defensive coverages to shifting offensive responsibilities. He’s not one to leave things on the table. But for everything he’ll likely look at, it’s very possible that there aren’t actually many major changes that need to be made. You go down 3-1 in a series and it’s easy to think drastic adjustments are in line, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, and we’ve said this here before, the best adjustment is just doing what you’ve been doing and doing it better. The HEAT have already been doing things very, very well, but if being even better than that is what it takes, then so be it. As Spoelstra has said a number of times in this series, that’s the challenge. Joe: At this point, I don’t think there is much to change or adjust for either team. Although Miami is down 3-1, this has been a highly competitive series between two teams that really get after it. Sure, Erik Spoelstra might make a few minor tweaks to his rotation based on player performance, but that’s been the case all year long. And as Coup mentioned in his first response, the HEAT have executed well enough to win most of these games, so it’s really just a matter of sustaining that high level of play for longer periods of time. At the end of the day, Miami just needs to keep up its defensive activity to make up for the size disparity and continue to attack in the pick-and-roll to create more openings on the other end. We’ll see how it all plays out. 3: The HEAT have led at halftime of each game this series. What can they do better to hold leads in the second half? Couper: Something Dwyane Wade emphasized a number of times following Game 4 was that the Sixers make you pay for every single mistake you make. If you take your foot off the gas for just a couple of minutes, those minutes are going to cost you. Now, it’s probably not fair to say the HEAT have ever really taken their foot off the gas given how consistently hard they have been playing on the defensive end, but they have certainly had some offensive droughts that have allowed the Sixers to make up some ground. That’s not always to say they stop getting good shots or don’t run their offense, but even going cold on wide open shots for a minute or two is enough to turn a game – such as at the end of the third quarter on Saturday, which snowballed into an extended Philadelphia run – in a series where both teams are in overdrive. That’s also been a bit of a trend at times for Miami this season, where they’ll have one down six-minute stretch even in games where they’re otherwise topping 26-28 in a quarter, and trends like that can carry over to the postseason even if you can minimize them. Spoelstra has said he’s been looking for a complete game from his team at times this season. He’s been getting complete effort, but the HEAT might just need complete offense to start a comeback. And they’ll have to do it against a team that’s proved to be capable of truly elite level defense. Joe: Although the HEAT have done a great job of building early leads, the 76ers have responded well time and time again down the stretch. Thanks to Philadelphia’s fusion of length and discipline, the team has made things quite difficult on Miami in the halfcourt more often than not. As such, it’ll behoove the HEAT to push the pace as much as possible and get some easy buckets in transition. But if the opportunity doesn’t present itself, Miami should still be able to find some success in the pick-and-roll with Dragić and Wade attacking and Whiteside and Adebayo diving to the rim with force. In addition to defending Embiid really well in Game 4, both HEAT centers threw down some ferocious alley-oops on the break, so perhaps they can continue that and also translate it to set offense on Tuesday. Highlights: Game 4 – 76ers at HEAT Game 3 – 76ers at HEAT Game Notes: Goran Dragić leads Miami with 19.5 points per game during the postseason. Ben Simmons leads Philadelphia in points (19.3), rebounds (10.8), assists (9.8) and steals (2.5) per contest in the playoffs. The HEAT are 8-2 in their last 10 elimination games. Josh Richardson (left shoulder sprain) is listed as questionable.
  8. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 106-102 Saturday afternoon in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Dwyane Wade led the way for the HEAT with 25 points. Philadelphia now leads the series 3-1. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
  9. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday afternoon at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Philadelphia leads the series 2-1. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 2:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 2:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What happened in the fourth quarter of Game 3 that allowed the 76ers to suddenly pull away after a close game? Couper Moorhead: For three quarters it was a rough and tumble, gritty, chippy game that for some reason also featured a ton of scoring from both sides. And then, Miami stopped scoring for about two minutes and that was all it took for the 76ers to gain a double-digit lead. The HEAT climbed back to within a couple possessions but Philadelphia answered back with a mammoth run of their own to seal the game. The strange thing about the game was that Miami really was never playing badly. Even early in the fourth quarter, they had a few turnovers but they were still playing with physicality and force that was at least an approximation of how they want to consistently play. The HEAT simply made a few small mistakes, missed a few shots, and that was all it took with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playing very well. That’s sort of the playoffs in a nutshell, especially against a high-level opponent. You can play a great game, you can make a ton of shots, but string just a few poor or even average possessions together and that can be all it takes for things to go against you. Sure, the 76ers made a ton of threes and got to the free-throw line, but so did Miami. It wasn’t a game about those things in the end. It was a game about how well you have to play when the margin for error shrinks in the postseason. Joe Beguiristain: After both teams essentially scored at will through three quarters, the 76ers ramped up their defense and made things difficult for the HEAT in the fourth. Thanks in large part to Philadelphia’s length and Joel Embiid’s presence at the rim, Miami scored just 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting in the period. Sure, Josh Richardson hit some big threes at the beginning of the quarter, but the 76ers responded very well. While the HEAT ultimately fell short, they matched Philadelphia's physicality and intensity for most of the night. In particular, Justise Winslow really impressed with 19 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep and two remarkable blocks on Embiid and Robert Covington in the fourth. Ever since the playoffs began, Winslow’s whole demeanor has changed and he’s been locked in even more than he usually is. The playoffs can certainly bring out the best in a player. 2: Now that we’ve seen Joel Embiid in this series, how might the HEAT adjust to his presence? Couper: We noted going into that game that Embiid had been one of the most impactful players in the league this season and, despite some rust after a long injury layoff in the fist half, he was every bit that impactful player in Game 3. He stretched the floor, he stabilized Philadelphia’s offense with scoring and playmaking out of the post and, most importantly, his defense was at an All-World level. Defensively the HEAT have no choice but to rise to the challenge of making Embiid’s catches tough, contesting his jumpers and, perhaps most importantly given the physical nature of this series, not putting him on the foul line. It’s much more difficult to defend the 76ers when you can play 18 seconds of great, forceful defense and they can just throw the ball to Embiid to create a decent look. It’s on the other end of the floor where Miami might have to get particularly creative. With Embiid on the court, the HEAT shot just 1-of-8 at the rim, a number concerning both for the percentage and the volume. On so many pick-and-rolls and handoffs, Embiid would just sit back about 10-12 feet from the ball and wait to be challenged in the paint where his size makes shots exceedingly difficult. Miami combated this for a time pulling up and hitting mid-range shots, which helped them keep pace with the aforementioned three and free-throws they were earning, but eventually the number of jumpers began to take its toll. As for how they can best get to the rim against Embiid, it might come down to the old Roy Hibbert playbook. Make sure Embiid has to defend on the move so he isn’t able to stand waiting in the paint, make him guard out on the perimeter whenever possible and, on the other end, get stops so Miami can run out in transition. Joe: Let’s get this out of the way first: neutralizing a dominant force like Embiid is no easy task. With his combination of height, length and mobility, he’s pretty much a nightmare to deal with on both ends of the floor. All that said, Miami never backs down from a challenge, especially in the postseason. On the offensive end, the HEAT would be wise to either attack the basket and spray it out to open shooters on the perimeter or get Embiid involved in the pick-and-roll so he gets a little further away from the basket. Luckily enough, both Goran Dragić and Dwyane Wade are deadly when attacking downhill, so perhaps they can find some openings for themselves and their teammates in that scenario. Defensively, Miami has to try and force Embiid to catch the ball out of his comfort zones around the block. While making the 24-year-old get the ball further out doesn’t guarantee anything since he can still knock down mid-range jumpers and in-rhythm treys, it at least gives the HEAT a better chance at stopping him. 3: The HEAT have, by the percentages, defended Philadelphia’s threes well in Game 2 and poorly in Games 1 and 3. Are you seeing any trends in that area of the game? Couper: The 76ers were never going to shoot as well as they did in Game 1, hitting over 60 percent from deep, nor were they going to miss as many as in Game 2, shooting less than 20 percent. But then they came out and hit 18-of-34 again, many of them shots much better contested than the ones Miami gave up in Game 1 when Brett Brown went to his super-stretchy lineups. Some shots, like Marco Bellineli puling up from 30 feet on the move or Embiid shooting a contested look on the wing, you can only do so much about, but there are always things you can do better before leaving things up to chance. That means making Philadelphia miss more moments with deflections and by breaking up those fluid off-ball actions. You might not always make them miss, but you can make them just a little bit more uncomfortable and, in a best case scenario, make them not shoot the three in the first place. Joe: It’s no secret that Philadelphia is one of the best passing and screening teams in the league, which often causes the opposition to scramble a bit more than it would like. And outside of Game 2, the 76ers have shown just that thus far in this series. To combat a well-oiled machine like Philadelphia, the HEAT have to find a balance between being ultra aggressive in one-on-one defense and knowing the correct defensive rotation once the 76ers get into their second and third actions. Guys like Winslow, James Johnson and Josh Richardson have really answered the call defensively, but the trio has to somehow find another level on Saturday afternoon. Highlights: Game 3 – 76ers at HEAT Game 2 – HEAT at 76ers Game Notes: Goran Dragić leads the HEAT in points (19.3) and assists (5.0) per game during the postseason. Ben Simmons leads the 76ers in rebounds (10.0), assists (9.7) and steals (2.0) per contest during the playoffs. After this game, the series will shift back to Philadelphia for Game 5.
  10. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 128-108 Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Goran Dragić led the way for the HEAT with 23 points. The 76ers now lead the series 2-1. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
  11. Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round. The series is tied 1-1. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 6:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: How did Miami push themselves to a double-digit lead in the first half of Game 2? Couper Moorhead: They got back to being who they are defensively – tough, gritty and relentless. Those might sound like fairly generic descriptors, but can all adjectives when used for sporting purposes. That’s what the HEAT want to be on defense, they want their opponent to feel them every step of the way. So after falling behind 0-1 in the series Erik Spoelstra made sure his team played to its identity as guards fought their way through Philadelphia’s labyrinthine screens to contest or stop shooters altogether. What really changed the tone of the game, however, was Justise Winslow’s full-court pressure on Ben Simmons in the second quarter. In the grand scheme of things it was only a few possessions but it got Simmons, a remarkably patient and steady player, to speed up his own offense and make some mistakes – which led to the 76ers making mistakes and losing their way on offense for a quarter because they rely on Simmons to do so much for them. Philadelphia eventually got back to doing what they do, fortunately missing some open looks for three along the way, but playoff games often swing on a five or six minute stretch and that’s exactly what happened in Game 2. Miami isn’t likely to catch Simmons off guard in the same way again, but they can have a similar impact nonetheless with disciplined and forceful pressure. Joe Beguiristain: They brought the tenacity and intensity needed to win on the road in the playoffs. Thanks to a collective effort from James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson (and Dwyane Wade late), Miami made things tougher on Ben Simmons than in Game 1. Sure, Simmons nearly recorded a triple-double, but the HEAT’s varied coverages on the rookie paid dividends more often than not. And as Erik Spoelstra said after practice on Wednesday, “[Simmons] is a dominant talent. He’s going to require a dominant mindset.” In addition to bringing that mindset towards Simmons, Miami as a whole brought that to the table in Game 2. After getting outworked in the series opener, the HEAT answered back with a whopping 27 deflections, 13 recovered loose balls and 65 contested shots. Naturally, Johnson and Kelly Olynyk led the team in each of those metrics. Despite all the success on Monday, the team understands that nothing is guaranteed and each game in a series is different. That said, the HEAT will always put themselves in a position to win as long as they stay true to their defensive principles and perform like the top 10 defense they were throughout the regular season. In other words, it’s all about playing Miami HEAT basketball. 2: While the 76ers’ late run eventually came up short, did anything come of it we might need to watch for in Game 3? Couper: Some of Philadelphia’s late push came from transition offense and the HEAT gambling a little bit defensively, which they paid for, but what Brett Brown might take from it might be the success which came from really dialing up the pressure in pick-and-roll coverage. The 76ers were always going to blitz Goran Dragić and Dwyane Wade a little bit, based on their defense during the regular season, but their usage of that coverage in the second half of Game 2 was hardly occasional or sporadic. The changes seemed to come somewhat out of Wade being able to punish some switches by hitting pull-up jumpers, so the Sixers wanted to get the ball out of the hands of Miami’s primary creators. That aggressive coverage did cause some disruption of Miami’s offense, also playing a part in that run by the 76ers, but Wade especially started finding the roll man – often James Johnson – before any defender could swing over to help. Just as the 76ers won’t be caught off guard by full-court pressure again, neither will the HEAT by the blitz. Joe: Two things that really stood out about the 76ers’ late run were their opportunities in transition and second-chance points. In terms of the former, five of Simmons’ seven field goals in the second half came in transition either off Miami turnovers, missed shots or just sheer determination on the Australian’s part. For the HEAT to truly lessen Simmons’ impact, they have to clean up their mistakes, get back on defense quickly and prohibit him from gaining momentum off easy buckets on the break. As for the latter, Philadelphia has definitely made its presence felt on the offensive boards thus far in this series. Coach Spo even went so far as to say that the 76ers are “burying” Miami on the glass. In Game 2 alone, Philadelphia scored 27 second-chance points thanks to 17 offensive rebounds (10 of those rebounds came in the second half). Hopefully the HEAT can improve in that area as the series continues. 3: It seems as though Joel Embiid is nearing a return to this series. When he does, how is his impact going to be felt? Couper: The 76ers officially upgraded Embiid’s status to doubtful for Game 3 after having previously announced in the days before Games 1 and 2 that he was out. And it won’t be a shocker to anyone that doubtful becomes he’s actually in the starting lineup in a hurry, so the HEAT will have to prepare with that in mind. Strictly by the numbers, Embiid is one of the most impactful players in the league. The only players with a high net efficiency rating when on the court (with starters minutes) are Steph Curry, Eric Gordon and Chris Paul. When he’s on the court, the 76ers are both an elite offense – with Embiid capable of stretching out to three and being one of the most efficient post-up players in the league – and effectively the best defense in the league. He’s the complete package, and the numbers reflect that. Hassan Whiteside is clearly a valuable weapon in defending Embiid, but it takes a team to counter what he can do. Embiid’s gravity is such that him simply rolling to the rim or popping out in pick-and-roll or running a dribble hand-off creates significantly better looks for all of the Sixers’ shooters, so it falls on the entire team to be all the more precise when it comes to helping and recovering to shooters. Even in the post, where it often appears to be a one-on-one affair, the HEAT can help Whiteside, and Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo, by pressuring the player making the inbounds pass so Embiid has to come out a little further for the catch. There’s no question Embiid can be a major, major part of this series once he returns, and Miami will have to adjust much of what they’ve been doing so far in order to compensate. Joe: Joel Embiid’s potential return would really shake up this series. As Coup discussed at length above, Embiid is such an important player on both ends of the floor for the 76ers. And while he garners a lot of attention for what he can do offensively, the 24-year-old held the opposition to nearly eight percentage points less than their usual field goal percentage during the regular season. That’s crazy. Whenever Embiid does come back, it’ll be up to Hassan Whiteside to hinder him as much as possible. You should know by now that the two have had some fun battles in the past, with Whiteside gaining the upper hand in their last regular season meeting on March 8. Simply put, Whiteside was just on another level that night in terms of his focus and it led to a team-high 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting and two blocks on Embiid. With the playoffs being a whole different ball game, it will take that kind of effort and more. As Coach Spo likes to say, whatever it takes. Highlights: Game 2: HEAT at 76ers Game 1: HEAT at 76ers Game Notes: Erik Spoelstra is 46-13 at home in the playoffs. The HEAT have the second-highest postseason home winning percentage in NBA history at .722 (83-32). Dwyane Wade’s 28 points in Game 2 was the most off the bench in postseason franchise history.
  12. Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant The Miami HEAT defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 113-103 Monday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round to snap Philadelphia's 17-game winning streak. Dwyane Wade led the way for the HEAT with 28 points. The series is now tied 1-1. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
  13. Photo Credit: David Dow The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Philadelphia leads the series 1-0. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What led to the 76ers’ second-half run on their way to a Game 1 victory? Couper Moorhead: Sixers coach Brett Brown made a smart adjustment at halftime – the type of adjustment some coaches wait a game or two to make – by starting Ersan İlyasova in place of Amir Johnson. That effectively gave the 76ers a frontcourt of İlyasova and Dario Šarić, four shooters all running screening actions around Ben Simmons, who had no trouble finding his guys. All that shooting stretched out Miami’s defense to its limits, forcing all of the HEAT’s centers on to the perimeter, but Brown noted after the game that the switch also had the benefit of putting Johnson, a long and intelligent defender, on Kelly Olynyk when Miami went to its bench. Philadelphia still had to make their shots, but they were getting many of the shots they wanted with those lineups. The HEAT’s challenge now is managing all those screening actions better so those shooters aren’t getting comfortable catches. The 76ers also deserve credit for dialing up their defense, particularly Robert Covington. They were swiping at balls and getting in passing lanes, which helped keep the HEAT’s offense a little off balance. Miami still found open shots for their own shooters with elaborate bunch screens, which led to a few looks at the rim once the defense crept toward the arc. Joe Beguiristain: Simply put, the 76ers went bonkers in the second half and shot 56.5 percent after halftime thanks to crisp ball movement, effective screens and smart play design by Brett Brown. While J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli led the team in scoring, Dario Šarić continued to be a thorn in Miami’s side. On the flip side of the ball, Philadelphia’s length was very tough for the HEAT to circumnavigate. In fact, the 76ers wound up with 13 deflections and 21 loose balls recovered on the night. As Coup mentioned above, Robert Covington really made his presence felt defensively and held his assignments to just 2-of-8 shooting and three turnovers. If the average NBA fan didn’t know much about the 27-year-old out of Tennessee State entering Game 1, they do now. One of the bright spots for Miami on Saturday night was Kelly Olynyk, who led the team with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting and provided a spark off the bench in the first half. As a whole, Miami’s reserves fared better than the starters, so hopefully the first unit can get things rolling in Game 2. 2: What will Miami have to defend better? Couper: The HEAT’s defensive rating of 127.8 in this one isn’t going to please anyone, but there was a bit of a snowball effect in the second half that led to those inflated numbers. Tyler Johnson said after the game that even though they did well to limit the 76ers’ transition opportunities – they had just four fast-break points – Philadelphia still got to plenty of early offense, springing guys open with quick-hitting screens and cuts away from the ball. And once a few of those threes started falling, they got beat backdoor to the rim when they were looking for the three. It’s nothing Miami hasn’t defended and defended well before, but the reality is that the 76ers run a very taxing offense for anyone to defend. The can punish any mistake, and they run so much with purpose that you have to be on point throughout the possession. That is certainly something this team is capable of, but their opponent isn’t going to let them off the hook. Joe: This one is pretty simple: the three-point line. In Game 1, the 76ers shot an unreal 18-of-28 from deep (64.3 percent) and really caught fire in the second half. Again, Redick and Belinelli wreaked havoc from downtown, but Ben Simmons did a great job of either getting the offense set or assisting those guys himself. That said, James Johnson actually defended Simmons pretty well in the first half and did his best to limit the rookie as much as possible. At the end of the day, the HEAT just need to be quicker with their rotations. Although it’s tough with the way Philadelphia moves on offense, Miami has a lot of good defensive habits that it could use to combat that. When the HEAT were operating smoothly and contesting shots on Saturday, they had success. In fact, the 76ers shot just 19-of-49 (38.8 percent) on contested looks as opposed to 26-of-46 (56.5 percent) on uncontested shots. We’ll see if Miami can right the ship in Game 2. 3: Which matchups proved most striking to you so far? Couper: We mentioned this in the series preview but the 76ers size, especially on the perimeter, is one of their primary advantages in this series. They put Covington on Goran Dragić and Ben Simmons on Josh Richardson, using all that length to stymie drives to the rim as the two players combined to shoot 5-of-21. Those aren’t matchups the HEAT are going to want to attack in isolation – they’ll have to beat that size with precise execution and good timing with their actions. Even then, the 76ers can always switch just about anything they want to switch, but the HEAT did show an ability to take advantage of that at times forcing the defense to switch two, three or four times in a matter of seconds. The good news is that James Johnson and Justise Winslow did reasonably well keeping Simmons away from the rim, with some transition exceptions, despite how well Simmons was playing, so that strategy of playing off of rim worked well enough. Joe: Since I’ve already touched on most of the matchups in my previous responses, I want to get into Justise Winslow. You may think he had just an average game when looking at his numbers on the surface, but his defense was pretty solid. How so? Well, the 22-year-old held his assignments (Simmons, Šarić, Belinelli, Markelle Fultz and Ersan İlyasova) to just 6-of-16 shooting from the field, including an impressive 3-of-10 at the rim. That kind of versatility from Winslow will be very important for the HEAT moving forward. Highlights: Game 1: HEAT at 76ers Game Notes: Kelly Olynyk's 26 points in Game 1 was the most by any player off the bench in postseason franchise history. Four HEAT players scored in double-figures in Game 1. Joel Embiid (orbital bone fracture, left eye) is out.
  14. Photo Credit: David Dow The Miami HEAT fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 130-103 Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Kelly Olynyk led the way for the HEAT with 26 points. Click here for the full recap on HEAT.com.
  15. Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round. The HEAT and 76ers split the season series 2-2, with Miami winning the last two. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What was the main lesson you learned from the season series between these two teams? Couper Moorhead: In a weird way, these teams are both bad matchups for one another. The 76ers have a ton of size and their defensive switchability can really flatten out Miami’s offense if the ball movement isn’t on point while Miami’s own defensive tenacity and smart play can jam up Philadelphia’s trigger-based offense. Neither team used a ton of one-on-one creation, which is what many postseason teams end up relying on, so a lot of the late-game offense falls on the coaching to set things up perfectly. This should be a fun matchup, but it’s going to be a slugfest at times and pure execution, not individual talent, might be what wins in more than a couple of these games. Joe Beguiristain: The main thing that sticks out to me about Philadelphia is how disruptive and athletic the team is. Of course it all starts with Ben Simmons, but guys like Dario Šarić, Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes really cause trouble due to their length. And as Coup mentioned above, that allows the 76ers to switch a lot on defense without missing a beat. In other words, there’s a reason why Philadelphia finished the regular season with the third-best defensive rating. All that said, Miami did have a decent amount of success against the 76ers, especially in its final two meetings in late February and early March. As a whole, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside rose to the occasion and had their way in those matchups. At the end of the day though, these are two very well coached teams with top 10 defenses, so it’s all about who could impose their will the most. 2: What are you going to be focused on watching early on Saturday night? Couper: A few things that are all related. First, as we discussed in the series preview, how far Miami sags off Ben Simmons in order to deter him from driving into the paint, but as a result of that coverage how well Miami is able to stop the 76ers from getting open threes. Philadelphia, especially now that they’ve added Marco Bellineli and Ersan İlyasova, always has a ton of shooting on the floor – but most of those shooters rely on other players, either via the pass or screen, to help create their open looks off the catch. How Miami stops those shots will involve their discipline in fighting through contact and reading the action a few steps ahead, but also in managing their floor positioning so that they’re always able to closeout without relinquishing a drive. And lastly, the 76ers excel in transition and getting up early threes when the defense is scrambling to set up, so simply knowing where all shooters are at all times, at high speed, will be paramount. Joe: First and foremost, I’m anxious to see how the HEAT respond to the raucous Philadelphia crowd. While Miami has obviously played in tough environments all year, the playoffs are a whole different animal, especially considering how long it’s been since the 76ers made it to the postseason. In terms of on the court, I’ll be focused on how the HEAT start off the game on the offensive end. As mentioned before, the 76ers are very strong defensively thanks to their ability to limit teams from both the restricted area (gave up just 24.6 attempts per game from that zone in the regular season, which was tied for the second fewest in the league) and from beyond the arc (limited opponents to just 33.5 percent shooting on above-the-break treys, which was also the second lowest). To combat all that, Miami has to run its dribble handoffs with purpose and limit its turnovers. 3: What’s one matchup you think is very important for Miami? Couper: I see what you were trying to do there, when you tried to siphon out an answer. The truth is, the individual matchups matter far less than we always seem to think they do this time of year when we’re running down the opposing rosters and picking out various advantages. Yes James Johnson and Justise Winslow have a crucial and precise task ahead of them managing Ben Simmons’ spacing. Yes, Josh Richardson needs to stick with J.J. Redick as he runs through a labyrinth of screens on the perimeter. Yes, Hassan Whiteside will have to content with one of the league’s premier post players – when he returns – in Joel Embiid. They all have important jobs, but none of them will be doing them alone. When teams really get to sit down and crank out a detailed plan for an opponent in the postseason, they’re not just drawing lines and assignment between players. They’re thinking about how they can use every player on the floor to stop any action at any given time. It’s on the team to play strong, cohesive, smart defense, not any one player on an island. Joe: Although Simmons will command the most attention, I think the HEAT also have to be wary of Šarić. During the regular season against Miami, the Croatian averaged 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on 44.8 percent shooting from deep. A lot of that was due to Simmons’ ability to break down the defense and spray it out, but the point is the HEAT have to keep a body on Šarić at all times. While Josh Richardson guarded the forward the most over the previous four matchups, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Justise Winslow were also given the assignment. Long story short, it will take a collective effort to stop the 76ers in Game 1. Highlights: March 8 – 76ers at HEAT Feb. 27 – 76ers at HEAT Game Notes: The last time the HEAT and 76ers met in the postseason was in 2011. Miami has won at least one road game in 18 consecutive playoff series, which is the longest streak in NBA history. Philadelphia closed the regular season on a 16-game winning streak. Joel Embiid (orbital fracture/concussion) is out. Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.5 (20) HEAT Defense: 104.0 (7) 76ers Offense: 107.4 (11) 76ers Defense: 102.0 (3)