Coup’s Takeaways: HEAT Dominate Pivotal Game 5 To Take 3-2 Series Lead
1. It’s not often that you win a playoff game in the first quarter, but that’s what the HEAT did tonight after taking the opening period, 31-19, and riding that lead to a crucial Game 5 victory and 3-2 series lead.
A quick 7-0 burst to open the fourth – the pivot point of both Games 3 and 4 when Jimmy Butler had to sit – didn’t hurt either, but for the most part this was as steady and composed as the HEAT have been all season with a double-digit lead. There was no let up, no stretch of questionable minutes to give the other team life. They just stuck with what they do, did it well and let the 76ers make all the mistakes.
The last two games of the series were ripe for analysis with the complexion of the floor changing due to the return of Joel Embiid, but with this one there isn’t much meat on the bone. Neither team changed all that much, Miami simply showed up with a B+ game and it was more than enough when all Philadelphia had to offer was a C- at best. As thoroughly dominant a game as you’ll see in such a high-leverage spot. The HEAT have a chance to close the series out Thursday on the road.
2. As the old adage goes, the role players did indeed play better at home. After just about nobody outside of Jimmy Butler – 23 points on 15 shots tonight – and Bam Adebayo (in Game 4) played well in the two road games, there was a huge lift across the board. Max Strus contributed 19 points, including 4-of-10 from three, a career-high 10 rebounds and a few rim attacks mixed in. Gabe Vincent (15 points) hit a few shots off the bounce and made some heady defensive plays. Tyler Herro didn’t have an explosive night, but he shot 4-of-8 and made a few timely floaters in the second half during Philadelphia’s last gasp run. P.J. Tucker was his usual self and added seven assists and Victor Oladipo again added a little scoring punch to take some of the downhill burden off of Butler. With the Sixers not getting much of anything from anyone outside of its core offensive players, Miami’s supporting cast turned the tide and turned it early.
3. For all the talk of Miami’s missed threes in Games 3 and 4, the more important adjustment they made – and they did go 13-of-33 from three – was simply playing better. Yes, shots fells and players like Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson got some rotation minutes, but they were so much sharper in both intent and execution. Even with the halfcourt offense still struggling to a degree, sub-90 points-per-play through the competitive portion of the evening, they capitalized on every Philadelphia miss and turnover, and that might be the story of the HEAT’s playoffs to this point. When the other team is making shots and getting free-throws, the offense struggles. When Miami is forcing misses and mistakes, the offensive efficiency jumps to another level. Philadelphia never developed any semblance of a rhythm – all their attempts at a run were based on individual efforts as the assist totals remained low – and the HEAT were able to free and loose as a result. Game 6 will be a greater challenge, to be sure, but make or miss Miami was doing all the right things tonight.