Marco Belinelli said something today that wouldn’t surprise anyone who has watched his 76ers face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Sixers lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1, and can close out the series tonight at Wells Fargo Center. “But at the same time, it’s going to be another war,” Belinelli said at the team’s practice facility. “So we just need to be ready and focus on this game.”
The Sixers didn’t match the Heat’s physicality in Game 2, and it led to a loss. So they put on their big-boy pants, went toe-to-toe and elbow-to-elbow with the Heat, and won the next two games.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) April 24, 2018
Things got testy in Game 3. The Heat kept trying to rough up the Sixers, who didn’t back down.
The biggest altercation came 1 minute, 34 seconds into the second quarter, when Dwyane Wade of the Heat and Justin Anderson got tangled up. Wade, one of the NBA’s all-time greats, yanked Anderson’s arm, slinging the Sixers reserve swingman to the floor on the baseline. 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 two received physical-taunting technical fouls. Then Ben Simmons and Heat power forward James Johnson were called for double technicals with 4:22 left in the quarter. And at the 8:15 mark of the third quarter, Belinelli and Heat point guard Goran Dragic received double technicals.
Joel Embiid elbowed Justise Winslow to the floor after the Heat reserve blocked his shot with 10:58 left. Winslow looked up at him and proceeded to talk trash. On the ensuing play, Embiid blocked Winslow’s shot and fired back with his own trash talk. Winslow later gave Embiid a fist bump during a break in the action.
Then in Game 4, the intensity level went to another level after Simmons fouled Dragic at midcourt with 4:17 left in the first half. Dragic didn’t stop driving toward the basket and Robert Covington made him pay. He shoved Miami’s point guard under the basket, knocking him to the floor.
Taking exception, Johnson grabbed Covington. Simmons, in turn, went after Johnson. In the meantime, Embiid, who was on the floor at the other end of the court, got up and ran to break up the scuffle.
But while the teams clashed, Miami’s Richardson and Winslow were banged up after colliding with Embiid. Winslow was bleeding from a cut above his left eye that eventually required four stitches. And Richardson suffered a sprained AC joint. Both players returned to the game.
The rough play continued when Dario Saric was called for a foul while Johnson scored on a nine-foot floater with 2:19 left in the half. However, Johnson appeared to knee Saric in the groin during the floater, knocking the Sixers power forward to the ground. Saric was restrained by teammates after he got up. Then he went over to the referee and tried to plead his case.
Thirty-eight seconds later, Dragic knocked Embiid to the floor while stealing the ball. And Hassan Whiteside and Saric were called for double technicals on a play with 5:29 left in the third.
“They are going to try to be aggressive from beginning of the game,” Belinelli said of tonight’s Game 5.