MIAMI — Justin Anderson downplayed his role. But the reserve swingman’s physicality fueled the Sixers on Thursday night in their 128-108 victory over the Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Anderson had watched from the bench as the Heat pushed around his teammates in Game 2. He wasn’t about to let that happen when he entered Game 3 at the start of the second quarter.
His aggressive play appeared to frustrate Dwyane Wade 1 minute, 34 seconds into the quarter as he two got tangled up. Wade, one of the NBA’s all-time greats, yanked Anderson’s arm, slinging him to the ground out of bounds. Wade then stood in front of Anderson, yapping at the Sixer. Anderson quickly got up, and the two had to be separated.
After the officials’ review, the players received physical-taunting technical fouls.
Here’s Wade’s take: “He came into the game to be a tough guy. So the refs didn’t do nothing about it. So I did.”
Anderson initially claimed he didn’t remember the play but then said, “It was a tough play for the both of us. It was just a common foul. I’m not tripping about it. It’s not that big of a deal.”
It’s hard to say if that play affected Wade’s focus. But he didn’t come remotely close to duplicating his 28-point performance from Game 2, when 21 of his points came on 8-for-9 shooting in the first half. Thursday, , the future Hall of Famer scored only eight points and missed 8 of 10 shots.
Anderson was asked if his role was to be an enforcer.
“Like in hockey? Nah,” he said. “I just play hard. I just make sure I do whatever I can to help my team win. That’s all that really matters.”
Anderson finished with six points on 2-for-3 shooting – all three-point attempts – in 9 minutes, 18 seconds of action. He also had four rebounds.