Leave it to Dario Saric to drop some playoff truth bombs.
Ever the realist, Saric has a mind-set and approach to the game that are far beyond his years and he can always be counted on for a response that is stripped of any sugar coating.
Monday night, after the Sixers’ Croatian sophomore put up 23 points in the Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat, Saric said the Sixers showed up with too little, too late. But he made sure his point was understood — it’s not time to panic.
Instead, Saric said it’s time to show the Heat that the Sixers are not ready to back down.
“We have two rookies on our team, obviously a couple guys in their second year. We don’t have that experience,” Saric said referring to Dwyane Wade. “But we are hungry, and we are ready to go to Miami and tell them ‘welcome to the playoffs.’ ”
Saric has always been a voice of reason when the Sixers lose, suggesting a return to basics, and to play with more physicality. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said it’s easy to forget that Saric’s career has just begun.
“I followed him for so long prior to him becoming a Philadelphia 76er, so I feel like I have been with him since the get-go,” Brown said Tuesday. “It’s only his second year. I do forget, by NBA standards, his limited experience and certainly playoff experience.”
Yes, Wade had a great game on Monday, scoring a game-high 28 points. But it was one of only seven games this season that Wade has scored more than 20 points.
“I think we’ve got the talent, we need to just show up and play good defense,” he said. “We won 17 in a row, we lost one game. I don’t think it’s something like ‘wow’, I think we can beat them [in Miami] for sure.”
Saric became the first player to notch 20-plus point performances in his first two playoff games since Anthony Davis in 2015.
He struggled offensively through the first three quarters but turned in a 10-point fourth quarter that added to his nine rebounds, four steals, three assists, and one block on the night. None of it was enough to hold off on Wade as he turned back the clock for a vintage performance.
When asked if the Sixers were missing Joel Embiid when the Heat put pressure on Ben Simmons on the perimeter, Saric responded to an obvious question with the perfect answer.
“Joel is an all-star, you’re talking about a superstar in our league,” he said. “Of course we’re missing him. We are missing him for every point — offensively, defensively, if people pressure Ben, or don’t pressure Ben, it doesn’t matter you know. When you have that kind of guy on your team and he’s out, of course we’re missing him.”
Embiid is clearly frustrated. He made that clear on Instagram following Monday’s loss. Saric said that he is trying to be a good teammate by continuing to remind Embiid that the medical team knows what it is doing and that he needs to take things one game at a time.
“When he comes back he’ll be ready, and will kick their [butt],” Saric said confidently. “I can not wait for Joel to come back and help us because we are a way better team with him.”
As far as evaluating what went wrong in Game 2, Saric said the Heat were guarding close, their timing was good, and they were putting pressure on every possession.
“They tried to go over screens all the time and tried to breath on our necks,” he said. “They really wanted to win this game.”
Saric is a scrappy player, who thrives in physical situations. While nearly everyone else on the floor is dealing with a matchup problem, Saric has continued to find his spots, produce offensively, and contribute on the defensive end. Game 3 should be no different for Saric, the rest of the Sixers just need to match his intensity.