Playoffs Game Review | Physical Affair Sends Series to Miami in Tie
Dwyane Wade has been there, done that. And plenty of times, too.
Three titles. Finals MVP. Scoring champion.
The 36-year old has been one of the elite players of a generation, and back on the Playoffs stage with which he is all too familiar, the 15-season veteran summoned up a series-tying performance.
With Wade going into full-fledged turn-back-the-clock mode, the 76ers fell to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals match-up, 113-103.
Wade, appearing in the 174th post-season game of his career, went for a season-high 28 points on 11 for 17 shooting. His 22-foot stepback jumper at the elbow with 47 seconds to go clinched Miami’s victory, marking the 19th straight playoff series in which the Heat have picked up a road win.
“I think Dwyane Wade offensively was just vintage Dwyane Wade,” Brett Brown said.
The loss was the Sixers’ first in 32 days, and stopped their winning streak, second-longest in franchise history, at 17 games.
Miami entered the contest focused on competing with force against the Sixers. The Heat made good on their intent, and brought a physical brand of basketball to the floor.
“It’s the reality of NBA basketball, and it will only get harder,” said Brown. “This is a snapshot of what you should expect when a team is going to go down 2-0 if they are unable to win.”
Miami managed to prevail, despite the Sixers’ late push.
A tip-in by Ersan Ilyasova (14 pts, 11 reb) pulled the Sixers within two, 98-96, with 4:29 to play in regulation. The sequence sent the sold out crowd of 20,753 at The Center into delirium, with Hall of Famer Allen Iverson and hometown comedian Kevin Hart front and center leading the cheers.
There was no phasing Wade, however. Out of Miami’s timeout, he came up with a steal that turned into a runout dunk. After the Heat got a stop, Wade fed James Johnson (18 pts, 7-7 fg, 2-2 3fg, 7 reb, 5 ast) for a slam.
Wade’s offensive rebound on Miami’s next trip down the floor set up an open baseline look for Goran Dragic (20 pts, 8-14 fg, 4 reb, 3 ast), and he didn’t miss.
Just like that, the Heat had snapped off six pivotal points in a row, part of a decisive 10-2 spurt that positioned them to level the series at 1-1 heading to South Florida.
“We really wanted that win,” said Ben Simmons, “but on to the next game.”
Simmons topped the Sixers with 24 points, to go with eight rebounds and eight assists. He nearly willed his group to a comeback with a determined fourth quarter effort highlighted by seven points and four assists.
Dario Saric came alive down the stretch as well, and finished with 23 points. The second-year forward netted 10 of his points in the final frame.
A game after connecting on a post-season franchise record 18 triples, the Sixers had trouble finding their range from deep. Having to deal with Miami’s tough, determined defensive approach throughout Monday’s tilt, the Sixers went 7 for 35 from the perimeter, and shot 42.1 percent overall.
“There is a way you have to play in the NBA playoffs from a toughness standpoint that was shown tonight,” Brown said. “[Miami] responded as I knew they would.”
Without a doubt, Monday’s game turned in the second quarter.
Three times in the final three minutes of the opening period, the Sixers led by as many as nine points, which would prove to be a game-high.
Around the same time, Dwyane Wade started to get himself going, and laid the foundation for a tone-changing 22-4 tear.
Just how much of a factor was the 12-time All-Star? During a stretch that saw the Heat grind their way to a 32-31 lead, Wade had a say in 16 of Miami’s 18 points.
As effective as Wade’s streak was, it was really the Heat’s defense in the second that made the most significant difference.
Miami’s stifling, relentless coverage kept the Sixers to 4 for 21 from the field, and 1 for 10 from three in the quarter. The Heat enjoyed a commanding advantage on the glass as well, to the tune of 18-7.
“The second quarter was definitely where they punched us in the mouth, and we didn’t respond the right way,” said Ben Simmons.
For the second frame, Miami outdid the Sixers 34-13.
• Dwyane Wade was the biggest. His 28 points was his highest total since dropping 31 points for the Chicago Bulls on February 6th, 2017. Wade started his night a perfect 7 for 7 from the floor. He racked up 15 points in the second quarter, and had 21 points by halftime.
“It was more so just about the mentality,” said Wade. “We just came in with an aggressive approach. I definitely came in with that mentality just to be aggressive tonight.”
• While Dwyane Wade will deservedly garner the bulk of the headlines from Monday’s Game 2 clash, Miami forward James Johnson also stepped up. Not only did he finish the evening a perfect 7 for 7 from the field (2-2 3fg), the 31-year old served as a versatile defensive weapon for the Heat. He was assigned to guard multiple players, including Ben Simmons.
• Justise Winslow, whom Miami picked 10th in the first round of the 2015 draft, didn’t produce the most eye-catching stat line (2 pts, 3 reb, 4 pf), but the airtight defense he applied on Ben Simmons in Monday’s crucial second quarter carried weight. Winslow embodied the increased physicality that the Heat competed with defensively, frequently playing Simmons tight, refusing to give him much room to breathe, and clamping down particularly in transition.
Other Significant Storylines:
• For the first time since 2015, Ersan Ilyasova started in a playoff game. In the absence of Joel Embiid, Brett Brown has been mixing up his options at the center spot. Amir Johnson, who was the Game 1 starter, got the nod at the five spot to begin Monday’s second half, taking over for Ilyasova.
• Reflecting the aggressive force that Miami played with Monday, the Heat went 24 for 30 from the free throw line. They took and made eight more shots from the stripe than the Sixers did.
• A game after pouring in 18 3-pointers to equal a team record, the Sixers Monday had to derive their offense from the interior. Fifty-six of their points came from inside the paint.
Quotes of Note:
Brett Brown, on the passing of Sixers icon Hal Greer:
"He was a graceful man. He was class."
Coach reflects on Hal Greer's legacy. pic.twitter.com/S65Gojcv6p
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 16, 2018
Ben Simmons said Sixers try to honor greats of past like Hal Greer by playing hard on court. pic.twitter.com/fj0fGdHGDC
— Brian Seltzer (@brianseltzer) April 16, 2018
Erik Spoelstra, on match-ups this season against Sixers:
“If you watched any of our games this year with Philly, they're just crazy games. So competitive. A couple games where both teams gave us big leads. Even during the course of the second half, we knew how big of a third-quarter team they are and we paid the price of that one of our games up here earlier in the season. They don't stop coming. All we did was get one game and we have to get back to Miami, rest for a day and then start to gear up again. This is a very competitive series.”
JJ Redick, on bouncing back from Game 2 loss:
“I think that we as a group haven't been through the fire of the playoffs. This will sharpen you, strengthen you as a player and as a man and as a group. Games like this I think are good for us, but it doesn't feel good with us.”
With Miami’s defense amped up Monday to maximum intensity, the Sixers found high-energy open-court scoring opportunities tough to come by for most of the night. An exception, and it was a spectacular one, occurred down the stretch of the third quarter, when Dario Saric dialed up a down-floor strike to Ben Simmons, who, upon making a terrific over-the-shoulder catch, made sure not to miss.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 17, 2018
The Sixers and Miami Heat will move their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series to South Florida, where action will resume Thursday at American Airlines Arena at 7:30 PM EST. Miami prevailed against the Sixers in two meetings on its home floor during the regular season.