Miami HEAT at Philadelphia 76ers Game 1 Preview
Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant
The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round. The HEAT and 76ers split the season series 2-2, with Miami winning the last two. 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 was the main lesson you learned from the season series between these two teams?
Couper Moorhead: In a weird way, these teams are both bad matchups for one another. The 76ers have a ton of size and their defensive switchability can really flatten out Miami’s offense if the ball movement isn’t on point while Miami’s own defensive tenacity and smart play can jam up Philadelphia’s trigger-based offense. Neither team used a ton of one-on-one creation, which is what many postseason teams end up relying on, so a lot of the late-game offense falls on the coaching to set things up perfectly. This should be a fun matchup, but it’s going to be a slugfest at times and pure execution, not individual talent, might be what wins in more than a couple of these games.
Joe Beguiristain: The main thing that sticks out to me about Philadelphia is how disruptive and athletic the team is. Of course it all starts with Ben Simmons, but guys like Dario Šarić, Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes really cause trouble due to their length. And as Coup mentioned above, that allows the 76ers to switch a lot on defense without missing a beat. In other words, there’s a reason why Philadelphia finished the regular season with the third-best defensive rating.
All that said, Miami did have a decent amount of success against the 76ers, especially in its final two meetings in late February and early March. As a whole, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside rose to the occasion and had their way in those matchups.
At the end of the day though, these are two very well coached teams with top 10 defenses, so it’s all about who could impose their will the most.
2: What are you going to be focused on watching early on Saturday night?
Couper: A few things that are all related. First, as we discussed in the series preview, how far Miami sags off Ben Simmons in order to deter him from driving into the paint, but as a result of that coverage how well Miami is able to stop the 76ers from getting open threes. Philadelphia, especially now that they’ve added Marco Bellineli and Ersan İlyasova, always has a ton of shooting on the floor – but most of those shooters rely on other players, either via the pass or screen, to help create their open looks off the catch. How Miami stops those shots will involve their discipline in fighting through contact and reading the action a few steps ahead, but also in managing their floor positioning so that they’re always able to closeout without relinquishing a drive. And lastly, the 76ers excel in transition and getting up early threes when the defense is scrambling to set up, so simply knowing where all shooters are at all times, at high speed, will be paramount.
Joe: First and foremost, I’m anxious to see how the HEAT respond to the raucous Philadelphia crowd. While Miami has obviously played in tough environments all year, the playoffs are a whole different animal, especially considering how long it’s been since the 76ers made it to the postseason.
In terms of on the court, I’ll be focused on how the HEAT start off the game on the offensive end. As mentioned before, the 76ers are very strong defensively thanks to their ability to limit teams from both the restricted area (gave up just 24.6 attempts per game from that zone in the regular season, which was tied for the second fewest in the league) and from beyond the arc (limited opponents to just 33.5 percent shooting on above-the-break treys, which was also the second lowest). To combat all that, Miami has to run its dribble handoffs with purpose and limit its turnovers.
3: What’s one matchup you think is very important for Miami?
Couper: I see what you were trying to do there, when you tried to siphon out an answer. The truth is, the individual matchups matter far less than we always seem to think they do this time of year when we’re running down the opposing rosters and picking out various advantages. Yes James Johnson and Justise Winslow have a crucial and precise task ahead of them managing Ben Simmons’ spacing. Yes, Josh Richardson needs to stick with J.J. Redick as he runs through a labyrinth of screens on the perimeter. Yes, Hassan Whiteside will have to content with one of the league’s premier post players – when he returns – in Joel Embiid. They all have important jobs, but none of them will be doing them alone. When teams really get to sit down and crank out a detailed plan for an opponent in the postseason, they’re not just drawing lines and assignment between players. They’re thinking about how they can use every player on the floor to stop any action at any given time. It’s on the team to play strong, cohesive, smart defense, not any one player on an island.
Joe: Although Simmons will command the most attention, I think the HEAT also have to be wary of Šarić. During the regular season against Miami, the Croatian averaged 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on 44.8 percent shooting from deep. A lot of that was due to Simmons’ ability to break down the defense and spray it out, but the point is the HEAT have to keep a body on Šarić at all times.
While Josh Richardson guarded the forward the most over the previous four matchups, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Justise Winslow were also given the assignment.
Long story short, it will take a collective effort to stop the 76ers in Game 1.
- The last time the HEAT and 76ers met in the postseason was in 2011.
- Miami has won at least one road game in 18 consecutive playoff series, which is the longest streak in NBA history.
- Philadelphia closed the regular season on a 16-game winning streak.
- Joel Embiid (orbital fracture/concussion) is out.
- HEAT Offense: 104.5 (20)
- HEAT Defense: 104.0 (7)
- 76ers Offense: 107.4 (11)
- 76ers Defense: 102.0 (3)