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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.