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By Joe B.
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
By Joe B.
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.
Game 4 – 76ers at HEAT
Game 3 – 76ers at HEAT
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.
By Joe B.
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.
By Joe B.
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.
Game 3 – 76ers at HEAT
Game 2 – HEAT at 76ers
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.