Although it has very little to do with tonight's on-court execution, 76ers guard Lou Williams did say he expected tonight's Wells Fargo Center crowd to be better than the crowd the Sixers faced at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena during the first two games of this best-of-seven series.
"Ours will be better," Williams said of tonight's crowd, adding that he's not dissing Miami's crowd, only that he thinks Philly fans have been waiting for a long time to see good, hard playoff basketball and that he feels they'll respond well. (By the way: "limited" number of tickets are still available in "select areas" for tonight's game. Translation? It's not yet a sellout, so you can still get tickets.)
At this morning's shootaround one reporter mentioned Miami embracing the "villian" role and asked whether Sixers coach Doug Collins would "consider telling the fans not to boo." (To this suggestion, Collins obviously rolled his eyes like, "you kidding me?")
"You play basketball," Collins continued. "I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. Those are great players, man. LeBron James was on a Cleveland team that won 61 games and went to the NBA Finals. Dwyane Wade won an NBA Championship ... Chris Bosh has been the guy on Toronto forever so you're not going to trick these guys ... you're not going to trick these people, these guys are pros. They went to Beijing and won a gold medal ... you think that crowd out there is going to bother them? Come on."
Which team has the most rabid fans?
This brings us to the basketball: it better be good, hard playoff basketball or else the crowd for Game 4 will be smaller than the crowd present for tonight's Game 3.
"The big thing for us is we're prepared ... the feeling from our team and from everybody is that we're as prepared as we can be. We're at home, we want to play with confidence and great energy. As I said before, the big thing for us is seeing the ball go in the basket early. That will give our guys another dose of confidence. We've played very well in stretches against this team and we'll just have to continue to do it. But we have to play for 48 minutes against them. And the games we played down in Miami they had that 8 or 10 minute surge that sort of knocked us out."
This was the issue entering this series. For anyone who watched the first three games between these teams, it was clear that when Miami put on a surge, the Sixers couldn't compete. The only thing that can stem that force tonight will be strong perimeter shooting. That's absolutely going to be the most important part of tonight's game. Please feel free to be concerned by that statement, because the Sixers have not been a strong perimeter shooting team for a few years now. When a playoff game is hinging on this team's perimeter shooting, it's OK -- smart even -- to be concerned. The Sixers will likely make runs with their defense and transition. They'll get some fastbreak dunks and ignite the crowd, but in the moments when this game slows down and Miami looks poised to make one of its back-breaking 20-4 runs, it will be a three pointer from Jodie Meeks, a pull-up jumper from Lou Williams, or a long-range shot by Jrue Holiday that will allow the Sixers to bridge these moments.
The problem in Game 2 (among a few problems) was that the Sixers were passing up solid open looks thinking that they could eventually get a better, closer look. The issue with that is that Miami's defense is too good: that open shot was the best look of the 24-second possession. When the Sixers don't pull the trigger on these open looks, they ended up taking off-balance shots or forcing something inside that gets deflected or blocked. The Sixers have to realize when they've created the shot clock's best shot. It's not an easy task, but they need to blend solid open jumpers (that may come with 12-14 on the shot clock and these shots would not be the best decision against a worse defensive team, but the Heat are really good on defense), with smart penetration -- whenever possible.
So don't get too excited tonight when the Sixers get out in transition and make things happen. This will almost certainly happen at least one or twice during the game. Keep your eyes on the chunks of minutes between, when Miami has traditionally put on game-changing runs.
If you want instant updates, please follow on Twitter: Deep Sixer. Also there should be a video of Lou Williams from after this morning's shootaround embedded below. Tonight's game tips off at 8 p.m. on TNT.
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