Game Review | Another Close Clash Goes Miami's Way
On three occasions over the past four weeks, the 76ers and Miami Heat squared off, each game proving to be hard-fought, physical, and full of important playoff implications.
Round 4 Thursday at American Airlines Arena was no different, and, unfortunately for the Sixers, it was the home team that once again prevailed.
Delivering another big fourth quarter, Miami managed to hold off the Sixers, 108-99. The Heat outscored the Sixers 35-25 in Thursday’s final frame, just eight days after pulling off a last-second victory over the Sixers on the very same floor.
“They were 5 for 6 from the 3-point line in the fourth quarter,” said Brett Brown, correctly citing a pivotal statistic.
Miami hit 13 of its 18 field goal attempts in the decisive period, while the Sixers converted only 7 of their 22 shots.
Heat big man Hassan Whiteside had 8 points in the fourth, as did Dwyane Wade, the hero from last Tuesday’s tilt.
With Thursday’s outcome, the Sixers’ lead over Miami for sixth-place in the Eastern Conference standings dropped to 1.0 game. Should a tiebreaker be needed for playoff seeding purposes, the trigger now shifts to conference record, by virtue of the clubs splitting their four-game season series.
“If you look at the games we had with Miami, you wouldn’t walk away from many thinking it’s not two teams that are pretty close, just fighting their hearts out trying to find a win,” Brown said.
Continuing a steady stretch of strong play, Dario Saric topped the Sixers with 20 points (5-10 fg, 4-7 3fg). He also pulled down 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
Joel Embiid dealt with foul trouble for most of Thursday’s second half, and finished with 17 points (5-18 fg, 3-6 3fg) and 7 boards.
Ben Simmons added 10 points (5-10 fg), 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, while JJ Redick snapped off 18 points (6-11 ft) on 4 of 6 shooting from behind the arc.
The Sixers overcame a 53-49 halftime deficit to seize a 74-73 lead going into Thursday’s fourth quarter, but Whiteside and several of the Heat’s reserves proved too much, combining to factor in a 12-4 spurt that dashed the visitors’ hopes.
Whiteside tallied 26 points (9-12 fg, 8-12 fg) and 8 rebounds against the Sixers, while the Miami bench wound up accounting for 46 points.
Heat Turn Up Defense
Much like the Sixers, Miami is a team that’s coached hard and plays hard, the latter especially holding true on the defensive end of the court.
Entering Thursday’s game, the Heat ranked eighth in the NBA in defensive rating, at 104.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, three spots behind the fifth-ranked Sixers (103.3 defensive rating).
Leaving American Airlines Arena Thursday, it was Miami’s defense that seemed to leave a lasting impression on the Sixers.
Brett Brown thought the Heat were “tenacious.” His point man didn’t disagree.
“I think physicality was definitely there,” said Ben Simmons, when asked about Miami’s defensive performance.
The Heat forced the Sixers into 18 turnovers, and held them to 39.5 percent shooting for the game.
“The first quarter, we looked like we were ready to come out and play,” Simmons said, referring to the Sixers starting Thursday’s tilt shooting 52.6 percent from the field. “Then, we just showed lack of composure, and didn’t stay with it."
Joel Embiid had a tough time getting going Thursday.
Limited to 8 points on 2 for 7 shooting in the first half, he was swiftly whistled for three personal fouls within the first three minutes of the third quarter. The big man then had to sit for the remainder of the period.
Embiid later picked up his fifth foul at the eight minute mark of the fourth period, which forced him back to the bench. Upon returning, he had to walk a delicate line between playing aggressively, and avoiding being disqualified.
There was also the matter Thursday of Embiid leaning on his usually dependable jumpshot. Against the Heat, he couldn’t find a consistent touch. Thirteen of his 18 attempts came from outside the paint.
“I took too many jump shots, missed a lot of them,” said the All-Star. “I just was trying to do everything to help the team win, but obviously, it wasn’t enough.”
Inside the locker room afterwards, Embiid was ready to set sights forward.
“On to the next one. We got to come and be ready [Sunday] against Brooklyn.”
Ben Simmons and the Sixers are winding down a segment of the schedule in which parts of 16 out of 19 days have either been spent or will be spent on the road. For the rookie, the demands of this stretch have been even greater, considering the traveling he had to do for the All-Star Game.
The Sixers’ current four-game trek ends Sunday in Brooklyn. The club will rest at home Friday before heading up to New York Saturday.
Simmons has faith the Sixers will respond.
“We’re a young team,” he said Thursday. “I feel we have the right players, the right coaching staff, that we believe in our structure. I think it just comes to us putting it into action - go out there, and trusting in that.”
In his 10-game stint with the Sixers since signing as a free agent three weeks ago, Marco Belinelli (10 pts)has been a steady, dependable option off the bench. Thursday in Miami proved no different, with this third-quarter triple arguably his most impressive shot of the night.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 9, 2018
The Sixers will have a few days to catch their breaths and recharge before wrapping up their longest remaining road trip of the season with Sunday’s stop at Brooklyn. The Nets upset the Sixers on January 31st, 116-108, but since then, have dropped 12 of their last 13 games. Former Sixers Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas were being used sporadically by Brooklyn on the heels of being traded in December; however, as of late, both players have found minutes hard to come by.