Philadelphia 76ers at Miami HEAT Game 4 Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday afternoon at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Philadelphia leads the series 2-1. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 2:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 2:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What happened in the fourth quarter of Game 3 that allowed the 76ers to suddenly pull away after a close game?
Couper Moorhead: For three quarters it was a rough and tumble, gritty, chippy game that for some reason also featured a ton of scoring from both sides. And then, Miami stopped scoring for about two minutes and that was all it took for the 76ers to gain a double-digit lead. The HEAT climbed back to within a couple possessions but Philadelphia answered back with a mammoth run of their own to seal the game.
The strange thing about the game was that Miami really was never playing badly. Even early in the fourth quarter, they had a few turnovers but they were still playing with physicality and force that was at least an approximation of how they want to consistently play. The HEAT simply made a few small mistakes, missed a few shots, and that was all it took with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playing very well. That’s sort of the playoffs in a nutshell, especially against a high-level opponent. You can play a great game, you can make a ton of shots, but string just a few poor or even average possessions together and that can be all it takes for things to go against you.
Sure, the 76ers made a ton of threes and got to the free-throw line, but so did Miami. It wasn’t a game about those things in the end. It was a game about how well you have to play when the margin for error shrinks in the postseason.
Joe Beguiristain: After both teams essentially scored at will through three quarters, the 76ers ramped up their defense and made things difficult for the HEAT in the fourth. Thanks in large part to Philadelphia’s length and Joel Embiid’s presence at the rim, Miami scored just 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting in the period. Sure, Josh Richardson hit some big threes at the beginning of the quarter, but the 76ers responded very well.
While the HEAT ultimately fell short, they matched Philadelphia's physicality and intensity for most of the night. In particular, Justise Winslow really impressed with 19 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep and two remarkable blocks on Embiid and Robert Covington in the fourth. Ever since the playoffs began, Winslow’s whole demeanor has changed and he’s been locked in even more than he usually is.
The playoffs can certainly bring out the best in a player.
2: Now that we’ve seen Joel Embiid in this series, how might the HEAT adjust to his presence?
Couper: We noted going into that game that Embiid had been one of the most impactful players in the league this season and, despite some rust after a long injury layoff in the fist half, he was every bit that impactful player in Game 3. He stretched the floor, he stabilized Philadelphia’s offense with scoring and playmaking out of the post and, most importantly, his defense was at an All-World level.
Defensively the HEAT have no choice but to rise to the challenge of making Embiid’s catches tough, contesting his jumpers and, perhaps most importantly given the physical nature of this series, not putting him on the foul line. It’s much more difficult to defend the 76ers when you can play 18 seconds of great, forceful defense and they can just throw the ball to Embiid to create a decent look.
It’s on the other end of the floor where Miami might have to get particularly creative. With Embiid on the court, the HEAT shot just 1-of-8 at the rim, a number concerning both for the percentage and the volume. On so many pick-and-rolls and handoffs, Embiid would just sit back about 10-12 feet from the ball and wait to be challenged in the paint where his size makes shots exceedingly difficult. Miami combated this for a time pulling up and hitting mid-range shots, which helped them keep pace with the aforementioned three and free-throws they were earning, but eventually the number of jumpers began to take its toll. As for how they can best get to the rim against Embiid, it might come down to the old Roy Hibbert playbook. Make sure Embiid has to defend on the move so he isn’t able to stand waiting in the paint, make him guard out on the perimeter whenever possible and, on the other end, get stops so Miami can run out in transition.
Joe: Let’s get this out of the way first: neutralizing a dominant force like Embiid is no easy task. With his combination of height, length and mobility, he’s pretty much a nightmare to deal with on both ends of the floor. All that said, Miami never backs down from a challenge, especially in the postseason.
On the offensive end, the HEAT would be wise to either attack the basket and spray it out to open shooters on the perimeter or get Embiid involved in the pick-and-roll so he gets a little further away from the basket. Luckily enough, both Goran Dragić and Dwyane Wade are deadly when attacking downhill, so perhaps they can find some openings for themselves and their teammates in that scenario.
Defensively, Miami has to try and force Embiid to catch the ball out of his comfort zones around the block. While making the 24-year-old get the ball further out doesn’t guarantee anything since he can still knock down mid-range jumpers and in-rhythm treys, it at least gives the HEAT a better chance at stopping him.
3: The HEAT have, by the percentages, defended Philadelphia’s threes well in Game 2 and poorly in Games 1 and 3. Are you seeing any trends in that area of the game?
Couper: The 76ers were never going to shoot as well as they did in Game 1, hitting over 60 percent from deep, nor were they going to miss as many as in Game 2, shooting less than 20 percent. But then they came out and hit 18-of-34 again, many of them shots much better contested than the ones Miami gave up in Game 1 when Brett Brown went to his super-stretchy lineups. Some shots, like Marco Bellineli puling up from 30 feet on the move or Embiid shooting a contested look on the wing, you can only do so much about, but there are always things you can do better before leaving things up to chance. That means making Philadelphia miss more moments with deflections and by breaking up those fluid off-ball actions. You might not always make them miss, but you can make them just a little bit more uncomfortable and, in a best case scenario, make them not shoot the three in the first place.
Joe: It’s no secret that Philadelphia is one of the best passing and screening teams in the league, which often causes the opposition to scramble a bit more than it would like. And outside of Game 2, the 76ers have shown just that thus far in this series.
To combat a well-oiled machine like Philadelphia, the HEAT have to find a balance between being ultra aggressive in one-on-one defense and knowing the correct defensive rotation once the 76ers get into their second and third actions.
Guys like Winslow, James Johnson and Josh Richardson have really answered the call defensively, but the trio has to somehow find another level on Saturday afternoon.
- Goran Dragić leads the HEAT in points (19.3) and assists (5.0) per game during the postseason.
- Ben Simmons leads the 76ers in rebounds (10.0), assists (9.7) and steals (2.0) per contest during the playoffs.
- After this game, the series will shift back to Philadelphia for Game 5.