Simply do the math, and it’s not difficult to see the difference between Games 1 and 2 for the 76ers in their opening-round series against the Miami Heat.
In Saturday’s opening 130-103 victory, the Sixers shot 18 for 28 from three-point range (64.3 percent). During Monday’s 113-103 loss at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers were 7 for 36 (19.4 percent).
The Sixers agreed to a man that one reason for the difficulty in making three-pointers was that Miami, usually a physical team, played that way Monday, much more so than in the opening game.
“They are a team that is not big on giving up threes and they just went overboard with everything, and the physicality kind of discouraged things a little more,” said Sixers forward Robert Covington, who shot 1 for 9 from beyond the arc. “We will make adjustments and figure out how they guarded us.”
The series will resume Thursday in Miami, so the Sixers have a few days to make those adjustments.
Dwyane Wade, who turned back the clock to score 28 points in nearly 26 minutes, said it was more than just being more physical that improved the Heat’s three-point defense.
“They made some unbelievable threes [in Game 1], and I think we also were a little late in getting to the three-point shooters — our bigs were a little far back when they were coming off [screens],” Wade said. “So today was about being a little bit up, pressuring the passer a little bit … and make their shots tougher. What [JJ] Redick, and [Marco] Belinelli and [Dario] Saric do from the three point is special.”
On Monday, it wasn’t so special. The three combined to shoot 6 for 25 (24 percent) from beyond the arc.
Ben Simmons had a strong game, with 24 points (10 for 17 for the field), nine rebounds and eight assists, but the Heat made him work much harder than in Game 1.
When Justise Winslow was in the game, he often picked up Simmons full-court and made him work to bring the ball up. It also meant the Sixers got in their sets a little later and sometimes had to rush shots.
“I just tried to mix it up,” said Winslow, who had a plus-8 rating. “They don’t have too many ballhandlers and a lot of the game he [Simmons] will have the responsibility, so I was just trying to make it tough on him.”
Like Covington, Simmons acknowledged the Heat’s physicality.
“They were a little bit more physical,” Simmons said in comparing Game 2 to Game 1. “At the same time, we got guys who can throw bodies as well, but I think that [Miami’s physical style] was one of the biggest things.”
The Heat were more intense on defense.
“Tonight we were more detailed in landing guys off the line and making them put it on the floor,” said James Johnson, who spent some time guarding Simmons and also scored 18 points, hitting all seven of his shots from the field.
Needless to say, the Heat were a different team from the one that opened the series. They figured the only way to contain the Sixers was to stop their three-point proficiency.
Redick said the Sixers’ shooting hit different extremes in the first two games, and he is looking for them to get back to their norm as the series shifts to Miami for the next two games.
“18 for 28 is unsustainable, and at the other end, 2 for 18 in the first half is also an anomaly,” Redick said. “Hopefully we will bounce back and will shoot in the high 30s, low 40s for the rest of the series.”