It’s time for the playoffs to really start.
Game 2 Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center is where we will see the experience and mettle of the coaches tested, the ability of the players to adapt and improve, and get a better sense of how this series will play out.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said the teams were going to feel each other out in Game 1. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra agreed with that approach, but with a caveat after Saturday’s game.
“As far as feeling each other out, we definitely felt them,” Spoelstra said Sunday after the Heat practiced at Temple University. “They did not feel us.”
The Sixers’ main goal before Monday is continued improvement. The team had a film session and walkthrough on Sunday in Camden and Brown said he had identified areas he wanted to clean up before Game 2.
A turning point in the Sixers’ 130-103 victory on Saturday was moving Ersan Ilyasova into the starting lineup for the second half. Ilyasova struggled on both ends of the floor through the first two quarters, but in the starting lineup next to Dario Saric, he created a matchup problem, especially against Heat center Hassan Whiteside.
Brown made it clear he would be using Saric and Ilyasova together more, but would not offer specifics of his game plan. Spoelstra offered more on that, saying he assumes that Brown will be starting Ilyasova on Monday in place of Amir Johnson because of the success of that lineup.
The Heat will be aiming to get Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson more involved in Game 2. Spoelstra added that Whiteside will need to adapt to defending the Sixers’ smaller lineup.
From Dragic’s point of view, Miami needs to be more detailed in its attack, paying closer attention to when and where screens are happening so that the Heat can create better space and capitalize on it.
“They’ll probably make an adjustment on how they guard Ben [Simmons] or what their strategy is with Ben, how they shift to the basketball or how they load up on Ben,” JJ Redick said.
But Dwyane Wade said it might end up being more about the other players on the Sixers roster because Simmons, much like LeBron James, is going to affect the game no matter who is thrown at him, so limiting the other Sixers scorers will be a high priority for the Heat.
From here on, there will be adjustments made before, during, and after each game. No matter the changes though, the Sixers are trying to stay present by not getting ahead of themselves.
“Doc Rivers used to say something along the lines of ‘a playoff series really doesn’t start until someone gets a road win,'” Redick said. “So all we’ve done is protect home court for one game.”
Brown echoed that sentiment, reminding that a series can change quickly and that the Sixers remain fearful of the Heat despite a 1-0 lead.