NBA Playoffs 2018: What Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and 76ers overcame to take 3-1 lead against Heat
The Sixers were sloppy and disorganized for much of Game 4, but they won anyway
- They had 27 turnovers, leading to 30 Heat points. Per Cleaning The Glass, they turned it over on a quarter of their offensive possessions. Much of this was from their best players: Ben Simmons coughed the ball up seven times and Joel Embiid eight. The Sixers threw the ball away 17 times in the first half alone, clearly bothered by Miami's physicality and playing needlessly fast with Embiid on the court. Heat wing Josh Richardson had seven -- SEVEN! -- steals and guard Goran Dragic had four.
- For most of the first half, Miami dictated the terms of engagement. Philadelphia was not able to run its sets smoothly, and the Heat junked the game up -- they could have been called for a foul on just about every possession. It surprised no one when there was a .
- Halfway through the third quarter, Miami led by 12 points. The American Airlines Arena crowd was about as hyped as it gets, and the Heat were fighting for their playoff lives.
- The Sixers shot just 7-for-31 (22.6 percent) from 3-point range. As has been the case since their red-hot performance in the series opener, their shooters struggled to get clean, in-rhythm looks, thanks to Miami's army of quick, long-armed perimeter defenders. When you combine this with the turnovers, Philadelphia scored just 96.9 points per 100 possessions. (For context: The Sixers scored 107.4 points per 100 possessions in the regular season, good for 11th in the league. The Phoenix Suns, the NBA's worst-scoring team, averaged 100.8 points per 100 possessions.)
- The Heat went to Dwyane Wade hero ball down the stretch, and it was fairly effective. Wade scored 12 of his game-high 25 points on 5-for-10 shooting in the fourth quarter, including three big buckets with less than two minutes to go.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown could hardly believe the result. He was clearly proud of his team's resilience, but he knows better than anyone that this did not fit the profile of a typical Sixers victory.
"I'm shocked that we won this game," Brown said. "We really didn't have a right to win the game. I thought that defensively in the first three periods we were a C-minus. I thought that our turnovers were an F. And yet, you know, we come out the other side with a win against an amazing sort of organization of winning and culture and history."
Nobody would call this a beautiful basketball game, but it was a competitive one. There were times, particularly in the messy second quarter, when Philadelphia looked like it might be (finally) showing its inexperience.
"They jumped us and we didn't handle it well," Brown said.
The Sixers could have let the game get away from them. They could have gotten discouraged because nothing was going their way. They stuck with it, though, and played with the confidence of a veteran team that has been there before -- despite the fact they are definitely not that.
"We flipped our whole discipline in the fourth period," Brown said. "We guarded. We stayed way more with our rules and our game plan than we did in the first three periods. The fact that you can actually win a playoff game with this volume of turnovers is mind-boggling."
Brown noted that Philadelphia settled down and only turned the ball over four times in the final frame. He credited Embiid's rim protection and "the execution that the team showed when it mattered," particularly in regards to Simmons and J.J. Redick running pick-and-rolls. (He referred to them as "small-small pick-and-rolls," which is funny because Simmons stands 6-foot-10.) He also said he was shocked every time he looked at the scoreboard before the fourth quarter and didn't see a larger deficit.
Through four games, it is clear that the Sixers have more room for error than Miami. They are bigger, more talented and more balanced. What Game 4 showed, though, was they are also poised. Philadelphia did not get bullied and it did not lose its edge. Instead, when adversity hit, the group calmed down, found its rhythm and got back in the game. As the Sixers try to make a long playoff run, they will need this kind of determination and resolve. Brown was encouraged when he watched them take control of the game in the halfcourt in crunch time -- not just because they are one win away from the second round, but because this sort of thing is becoming part of their identity.
"The combination of both sides of the ball and the way things have been trending, say, in the past month and a half, gives me tremendous confidence that that's what we're emerging to be," Brown said. "I don't think that this was an outlier."
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