Miami HEAT at Philadelphia 76ers Game 2 Preview

Photo Credit: David Dow

The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night at Wells Fargo Center in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Philadelphia leads the series 1-0. 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 led to the 76ers’ second-half run on their way to a Game 1 victory?

Couper Moorhead: Sixers coach Brett Brown made a smart adjustment at halftime – the type of adjustment some coaches wait a game or two to make – by starting Ersan İlyasova in place of Amir Johnson. That effectively gave the 76ers a frontcourt of İlyasova and Dario Šarić, four shooters all running screening actions around Ben Simmons, who had no trouble finding his guys. All that shooting stretched out Miami’s defense to its limits, forcing all of the HEAT’s centers on to the perimeter, but Brown noted after the game that the switch also had the benefit of putting Johnson, a long and intelligent defender, on Kelly Olynyk when Miami went to its bench. Philadelphia still had to make their shots, but they were getting many of the shots they wanted with those lineups. The HEAT’s challenge now is managing all those screening actions better so those shooters aren’t getting comfortable catches.

The 76ers also deserve credit for dialing up their defense, particularly Robert Covington. They were swiping at balls and getting in passing lanes, which helped keep the HEAT’s offense a little off balance. Miami still found open shots for their own shooters with elaborate bunch screens, which led to a few looks at the rim once the defense crept toward the arc.

Joe Beguiristain: Simply put, the 76ers went bonkers in the second half and shot 56.5 percent after halftime thanks to crisp ball movement, effective screens and smart play design by Brett Brown. While J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli led the team in scoring, Dario Šarić continued to be a thorn in Miami’s side.

On the flip side of the ball, Philadelphia’s length was very tough for the HEAT to circumnavigate. In fact, the 76ers wound up with 13 deflections and 21 loose balls recovered on the night. As Coup mentioned above, Robert Covington really made his presence felt defensively and held his assignments to just 2-of-8 shooting and three turnovers. If the average NBA fan didn’t know much about the 27-year-old out of Tennessee State entering Game 1, they do now.

One of the bright spots for Miami on Saturday night was Kelly Olynyk, who led the team with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting and provided a spark off the bench in the first half. As a whole, Miami’s reserves fared better than the starters, so hopefully the first unit can get things rolling in Game 2.

J.J. Redick2: What will Miami have to defend better?

Couper: The HEAT’s defensive rating of 127.8 in this one isn’t going to please anyone, but there was a bit of a snowball effect in the second half that led to those inflated numbers. Tyler Johnson said after the game that even though they did well to limit the 76ers’ transition opportunities – they had just four fast-break points – Philadelphia still got to plenty of early offense, springing guys open with quick-hitting screens and cuts away from the ball. And once a few of those threes started falling, they got beat backdoor to the rim when they were looking for the three. It’s nothing Miami hasn’t defended and defended well before, but the reality is that the 76ers run a very taxing offense for anyone to defend. The can punish any mistake, and they run so much with purpose that you have to be on point throughout the possession. That is certainly something this team is capable of, but their opponent isn’t going to let them off the hook.

Joe: This one is pretty simple: the three-point line.

In Game 1, the 76ers shot an unreal 18-of-28 from deep (64.3 percent) and really caught fire in the second half. Again, Redick and Belinelli wreaked havoc from downtown, but Ben Simmons did a great job of either getting the offense set or assisting those guys himself. That said, James Johnson actually defended Simmons pretty well in the first half and did his best to limit the rookie as much as possible.

At the end of the day, the HEAT just need to be quicker with their rotations. Although it’s tough with the way Philadelphia moves on offense, Miami has a lot of good defensive habits that it could use to combat that. When the HEAT were operating smoothly and contesting shots on Saturday, they had success. In fact, the 76ers shot just 19-of-49 (38.8 percent) on contested looks as opposed to 26-of-46 (56.5 percent) on uncontested shots.

We’ll see if Miami can right the ship in Game 2.

3: Which matchups proved most striking to you so far?

Couper: We mentioned this in the series preview but the 76ers size, especially on the perimeter, is one of their primary advantages in this series. They put Covington on Goran Dragić and Ben Simmons on Josh Richardson, using all that length to stymie drives to the rim as the two players combined to shoot 5-of-21. Those aren’t matchups the HEAT are going to want to attack in isolation – they’ll have to beat that size with precise execution and good timing with their actions. Even then, the 76ers can always switch just about anything they want to switch, but the HEAT did show an ability to take advantage of that at times forcing the defense to switch two, three or four times in a matter of seconds. The good news is that James Johnson and Justise Winslow did reasonably well keeping Simmons away from the rim, with some transition exceptions, despite how well Simmons was playing, so that strategy of playing off of rim worked well enough.

Joe: Since I’ve already touched on most of the matchups in my previous responses, I want to get into Justise Winslow. You may think he had just an average game when looking at his numbers on the surface, but his defense was pretty solid.

How so?

Well, the 22-year-old held his assignments (Simmons, Šarić, Belinelli, Markelle Fultz and Ersan İlyasova) to just 6-of-16 shooting from the field, including an impressive 3-of-10 at the rim.

That kind of versatility from Winslow will be very important for the HEAT moving forward.


Game 1: HEAT at 76ers

Game Notes:

  • Kelly Olynyk's 26 points in Game 1 was the most by any player off the bench in postseason franchise history.
  • Four HEAT players scored in double-figures in Game 1.
  • Joel Embiid (orbital bone fracture, left eye) is out.

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