The playoffs are all about adjustments, and now it is the 76ers’ turn. When the Sixers visit Miami for Game 3 of their opening-round series Thursday night, they will try to bounce back from Monday’s 113-103 loss to the Heat at the Wells Fargo Center.
Miami made the first adjustment after losing Game 1 to the Sixers on Saturday. The open looks that the Sixers had while shooting an unbelievable 18 for 28 from three-point range in Game 1 were no longer there on Monday night.
Miami limited the Sixers to 7-for-36 shooting from the arc in Game 2, and afterward, the Sixers talked about how the Heat had played much more physically than in the opener. Miami fought more through picks, ramped up its intensity, and made the Sixers work harder for their three-point shots.
So what can the Sixers do to counter the physical play of the Heat?
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) April 17, 2018
“Space, speed and the fundamentals of getting open,” coach Brett Brown said before his team’s practice Tuesday, a day before it departed for Miami.
Getting open and moving without the ball are such underrated skills. Sixers guard JJ Redick, who scored 28 points in the opening win, is a master at that. Redick had a more difficult time in Game 2 coming off screens, as he was hounded by Heat defenders.
“They probably feel they have a blueprint to beat us, and we expect a similar approach,” said Redick, who scored 11 points and shot 1 for 7 on threes in Game 2.
Redick said it wasn’t just physicality that made the Heat successful.
“A byproduct of that and probably part of their strategy, if you are physical, you are going to foul, the game becomes choppy, and the game was played at their pace,” Redick said. “We have to figure out a way to play the game at our pace.”
What is interesting is that in Game 1, the Sixers had just four fastbreak points, compared with 14 for the Heat. In Game 2, the Sixers had a 17-6 edge in fast-break points.
Yet in Game 1, the Sixers were much more effective in half-court sets because Ben Simmons was finding players cutting to the basket, getting open at will against the Heat defenders. Simmons had 14 assists in the first game, nine in the second.
On Monday, the Sixers weren’t as open cutting to the basket because the Heat were simply more committed to playing defense.
Intensity, especially in the playoffs is the key to success.
Dwyane Wade, who struck for 28 points in a little less than 26 minutes to lead the Heat win, said intensity had a lot to do with Miami’s improvement in Game 2.
“We played that first game like a regular-season game,” Wade said.
And they played the second like a playoff game.
Now it’s the Sixers’ turn to adjust, do the fundamental things that Brown stressed to get open more, and also try to match, or surpass, the Heat’s Game 2 intensity on both ends of the court.