Highlights courtesy of MLG Highlights
1. There’s a saying that it’s not how you start but it’s how you finish. While this applies to many teams in this year’s playoff field there’s arguably no team this applies to more than the Philadelphia 76ers. Riding a 16 game winning streak into the postseason the Sixers kept the party going with a very convincing win over the Miami Heat.
There’s so much to like here but first let’s put emphasis on the obvious. Simply put they scorched the Heat (get it) from deep. Philly converted 18 of their 28 tries from three good for 64%. You can probably guess the parties mainly responsible but I’m going to tell you anyway. JJ Redick led all scorers with 28 points which included him going 4 of 6 from deep and 8 of 13 overall. Posting the very same numbers from downtown Dario Saric put up 20 points in addition to six boards. Leading candidate for buyout player of the year (nothing official I just made it up) Marco Belinelli went off for 25 points going 4 of 7 from afar. Mind you this shooting night came against the 7th rated defense in the league so this is anything but the norm.
2. When going up against a well coached and defensively sound team like Miami you need something special to beat them. In other words you must pose a problem that will prove difficult to solve. The 76ers presented them with at least two of them last night. First the move to give Ersan Ilyasova (another great buyout pickup for the Sixers) major minutes at center rendering Hassan Whiteside relatively useless was one that paid off big. Philly’s Illy hit for 17 points and a game high 14 boards. His stroke was intact as well going 3 of 4 from deep.
The other problem and one that the Heat may never find an answer to in this series is Ben Simmons. In his playoff debut the redshirt rookie went for 17 points, 9 boards and 14 dimes. If you need to find the source of all of these great shooting performances look no further than him. His ability to be able to get in his groove so easily and so early against such a good defensive team on such a large scale is pretty damned dare I say………Magicesque (yeah I said it send me all of your slander).
Defensively Philly was able to keep and build on their lead after being down 60-56 at the half using a 34-18 third quarter to pull away. In this quarter they ratcheted up the defense holding the heat to 5 of 19 shooting in the frame. Robert Covington nabbed 7 boards and 3 blocks to go with his 9 points and rookie Markelle Fultz nabbed 2 steals. For all of the talk about Philly’s young guys not being ready for the postseason they gave one helluva response last night.
3. Normally in response to bad losses like this the conventional wisdom is to think that this is pretty far-fetched and that they can’t possibly duplicate that performance again. Well, while some of the more outlandish stuff from last night stands a chance to not carry over we’re still talking about a team that haven’t lost a game in a month and two days. The Heat played one very impressive half of basketball and in doing so posed an issue that caused the Sixers fits. Kelly Olynyk was the high man for the Heat with 26 points on 9 of 13 shooting along nailing 4 of his 5 triples. However, whereas the Heat had one guy that posed a matchup problem for Philly the Sixers had like 12.
In a nutshell, this was a good team that had a bad quarter against the better team that evening and they never recovered. While I expect their defense to tighten up as the series goes along it I a concern about where their points will come from if they can’t control the pace. Last night the next leading scorer for Miami was Goran Dragic who put up 15 on 14 shots. James Johnson was a positive for them going for 13-3-4 and the crafty as always Dwayne Wade gave them 11 off the bench.
But for them to even think about keeping up with the 76ers they’ll need much more from Tyler Johnson (9 points on 2 of 6), Wayne Ellington (6 points on 2 of 5) and Josh Richardson (4 points on 1 of 7). This will not be easy as Philly boasts the 4th rated defense in the league but Miami can be just as dangerous as their opponent when shots are falling. Miami actually hit 46% of their threes last night it was everything else giving them trouble. This group is too talented and too well coached for me to think that this will remain the tone of the series but they have a lot to figure out and fast.