Jump to content
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.
By Joe B.
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.
By Joe B.
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.
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.
Game 2: HEAT at 76ers
Game 1: HEAT at 76ers
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.
By Joe B.
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.