Miami HEAT at Philadelphia 76ers Game Preview
Photo Credit: Glenn James
The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center. The HEAT fell to the 76ers 103-97 in their last meeting on Feb. 2. 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: What did you take away from Miami’s comeback bid to the Toronto Raptors?
Couper Moorhead: That the Raptors are every bit as good as both their record and their advanced metrics would indicate. They’re as good and balanced a team as there is in the Eastern Conference. There’s actually not as much to say about Miami’s late run after being down by as much as 17 points – the HEAT play hard, which we already know, and the Raptors probably started milking the clock a little bit too soon as they took a ton of shots just before the buzzer with the sizeable lead.
We can, however, highlight the play of Goran Dragić, who poured in 16 points in the third quarter. The HEAT are still clearly figuring out their rotations with the added depth they picked up at the trade deadline – and with injured players on the mend all the same – so it’s good to see Dragić maintain his aggressiveness even as the lineups around him are somewhat in flux.
Also, take note of that play Erik Spoelstra ran down five points in the final minute. Miami didn’t necessarily need a three, but Spoelstra essentially put the ball in the hands of Bam Adebayo to both run a tight pick-and-roll and then make a perfect pass to Wayne Ellington in the opposite corner. That’s not a play many coaches would run for a rookie guard, much less a center who rarely handles the ball like that. It was a beautiful play.
Joe Beguiristain: The HEAT just kept on fighting.
While we’ve seen Miami storm back in multiple games this season, there’s something to be said about the moxie and grit the team has shown time and time again regardless of the circumstances.
After Goran Dragić went off for 16 points early in the third quarter and Toronto responded with a massive run to end the period, it would have been easy to pack it up and get ready for the second night of a back-to-back against the 76ers.
But that’s not how the HEAT are wired.
Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington hit some timely buckets in the fourth, while Bam Adebayo absorbed a lot of contact inside and kept the ball moving with three assists in the period. As such, Miami went on a 13-0 run late to cut the deficit to 112-109 and actually got it within two points a little later.
While the Raptors ended up with the victory, the HEAT certainly made them earn it.
2: What did we learn from the previous matchup with the 76ers?
Couper: For one, the 76ers are big. Even though they play so many versatile, flexible lineups without having to sacrifice too much shooting – their starting lineup has been one of the very best in the entire league – Philadelphia manages to stay big throughout, often outsizing Miami and leaving a number of mismatches on the floor. The HEAT are usually quite good at combating those natural disadvantages by fighting passing lanes and limiting access to those matchups, but it’s an important layer of this matchup nonetheless.
The flip side of this is that Miami’s bench held a similar advantage, with Kelly Olynyk (not playing Wednesday night) a plus-11 in the last game as a substitute. Without Olynyk and with Miami’s bench unit still learning how to play together since adding Dwyane Wade, especially now that the 76ers added some much-needed shooting in the form of Marco Bellineli, we might not be able to expect those same numbers, but that’s where things stood last time out.
Joe: We learned that the 76ers are as good as advertised.
After years of “trusting the process”, Philadelphia is expected to make it into the playoffs with both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid now fully healthy. And based on the team’s play of late, it seems as though that might come to fruition.
Thanks to the Simmons/Embiid duo and Dario Šarić, the 76ers have won five of six and are the seventh seed at 29-25. With Miami holding onto the final playoff spot in the East, this matchup is obviously important.
In terms of how that last meeting went, the HEAT had some trouble with Philadelphia’s size for most of the night, but made a run in the fourth quarter to get within four points. During the comeback, Bam Adebayo really turned some heads with his passing ability and ran the offense on a handful of possessions down the stretch.
We’ll see what happens this time around.
3: How can the HEAT better avoid going down by double digits to Philadelphia?
Couper: While allowing 35 points in the third quarter is never going to be part of Miami’s winning plan – they want to keep teams around 18-25 points per quarter depending on the pace of play – it was the HEAT’s own 37 combined points between the second and third quarters that wound up costing them (even as they would score 37 in the final period). Part of that was Miami having a weirdly off shooting game, but there haven’t been too many games where they’ve been able to come out on top despite scoring less than 20 in multiple quarters.
Remember that 76ers size we talked about? Miami was limited to just 36 points in the paint last time out while Philadelphia scored 60 behind the relentless attack of Ben Simmons (who doesn’t even have much of a jumper yet). Cold shooting or not, getting into the paint is usually a much larger part of the HEAT’s blueprint to success.
Joe: Although Miami struggled to put the ball in the hoop in that last matchup, the real issue was on the defensive end. In Philadelphia’s 35-point third quarter that Coup mentioned above, Simmons put pressure on the HEAT by getting into the paint and either scoring himself or setting up his teammates.
To combat that, the HEAT’s defensive rotations will have to be quicker when Simmons forces the bigs to collapse or attacks a switch. Of course, all of this is easier said than done, but Miami understands what it has to do in order to be successful.
- The HEAT are 30-27 on the year.
- The 76ers have won five of six and enter the contest at 29-25.
- This is the last game for both teams before the All-Star Break.
- Joel Embiid leads Philadelphia in points (23.7), rebounds (11.1) and blocks (1.8) per game.
- HEAT Offense: 103.1 (25)
- HEAT Defense: 104.4 (8)
- 76ers Offense: 105.4 (14)
- 76ers Defense: 102.6 (3)