Philadelphia 76ers at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the 76ers 102-101 in their last meeting on Feb. 27. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What stuck out to you from Miami’s overtime loss in Washington?
Couper Moorhead: There seemed to be a little hand wringing from fans after the close loss, especially with the Wizards missing John Wall and losing Otto Porter Jr. to injury in the fourth quarter, but after getting blitzed (playing on a back-to-back) in the first quarter behind a barrage of Washington threes, the HEAT played a strong overall game. The bench unit, for the second game, of Tyler Johnson-Dwyane Wade-Rodney McGruder-Justise Winslow-Kelly Olynyk continued to build some traction as a balanced group with floor spacing, and overall the team’s ball pressure was strong throughout the night. Were it not for Bradley Beal, who continues to evolve as a premier scorer, the HEAT very well could have won the game in regulation. Instead, a good team found a way to gut out a home victory and Miami went home empty handed. As we’ve said many times this year, when you’re playing possession-games, not every possession is going to go your way.
Joe Beguiristain: While it’s always tough when you fall short in such a tightly-contested game, Miami continued to show resiliency like it has all season.
Not only did Dwyane Wade help rally the HEAT from an 18-point deficit in the first quarter, but he also came through late with 11 points and three assists in the fourth quarter and overtime period combined.
That said, Miami likely wouldn’t have been in a position to get that close in the fourth had it not been for Tyler Johnson. The 25-year-old kept Washington on its toes all night with aggressive attacks to the basket and solid defense on both Otto Porter Jr. and Jodie Meeks.
Although Wade’s spectacular play down the stretch is what most people will remember, Justise Winslow also had one heck of a game. Factoring in Tuesday night, Winslow has now scored in double-figures in five of his last six outings. Above all else, his ability to finish plays in transition has been vital for the HEAT of late.
We’ll see if Winslow can keep up his sharp play moving forward.
2: What can Miami build on from its one-point victory against Philadelphia last week?
Couper: For all of Dwyane Wade’s heroics down the stretch of a nip and tuck game – which ended on an odd note with JJ Redick missing a wide open, potential game-winning three – the story of the game was Hassan Whiteside playing possibly his best game of the season. Whiteside didn’t have his most eye popping numbers going up against Joel Embiid, but they were incredibly balanced as he posted 15 points and 11 rebounds to go with three assists, three blocks and three steals. Whiteside was incredibly active both defending Embiid and rotating to help his teammates, getting his hands in the passing lanes and diving on the floor for loose balls. The 76ers remain a tough matchup simply because they have so much size across the board and have added even more shooting in recent weeks with Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, so as a counter the HEAT need their big man at his most competitive.
Joe: In addition to Wade and Whiteside, Goran Dragić also had a solid performance against the 76ers in that last matchup. Throughout the contest, Dragić showed quick feet off the dribble, utilized screens well and picked apart Philadelphia’s defense both as a scorer and a facilitator. As such, he led the team with five assists and a plus-20 rating to go along with 21 points.
Although Wade has been huge down the stretch since his arrival, Dragić is just as important to the team's success. The duo doesn’t have a high net rating overall just yet (1.6), but it has been able to get the job done late in games. In 30 fourth quarter minutes, the two-man lineup of Dragić and Wade has outscored opponents by 17.4 points per 100 possessions.
That’s pretty good.
3: What are the playoff implications of this game?
Couper: As important as beating the 76ers was last week – beating Detroit was slightly more important in terms of widening the gap between No. 8 and No. 9 – all it did was give Miami a chance to tie up the season series Thursday night rather than lose it outright a week ago. If the HEAT were to lose, Philadelphia would be three games up with the tiebreaker in hand, which isn’t the easiest mountain to climb at this stage of the season. Plenty of other teams Miami could possibly pass, but every tiebreaker you lose and team that climbs well ahead of you is one fewer high seed you can earn. Eventually, that puts you out of homecourt in the first round. So, Thursday isn’t going to decide who makes or doesn’t make the playoffs, but it’s a game we could point back to come April when the seeds are starting to sort themselves out.
Joe: As Coup mentioned above, the most important aspect of this game in terms of the standings is with tiebreakers. If Miami wins on Thursday, the season series would be tied 2-2 and the next tiebreaker with Philadelphia would come down to conference record since both teams are in different divisions. At the moment, the 76ers own a slight advantage at 21-16 over the HEAT’s 23-18, but both records will obviously change as the season wears on.
As I always say at this time of year, all Miami needs to be concerned about is what it can control. If the HEAT stay focused on the task at hand, all should be fine.
- The HEAT have won four of six and are 34-31.
- The 76ers have won three of four and enter the contest at 35-28.
- Dwyane Wade is averaging 19.4 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting over his past five outings.
- Joel Embiid leads Philadelphia in points (23.6), rebounds (11.1) and blocks (1.8) per game.
- HEAT Offense: 104.0 (22)
- HEAT Defense: 104.4 (8)
- 76ers Offense: 106.1 (13)
- 76ers Defense: 103.3 (5)