PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (53-31) at MIAMI HEAT (45-39)
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Philadelphia -2, Total: 216
The Sixers will be hoping to steal a game on the road when they take on the Heat in Miami on Thursday.
Miami Heat SG Dwyane Wade only played 19 minutes off the bench in Game 1 of his team's first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, and his 11 points did little to stem what became a blowout loss. In Game 2, the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer looked just like his old self, setting a franchise playoff record for bench points with 28 (11-16 FG)—21 of which came in the first half—and coming up with several clutch plays late to carry Miami to a 113-103 victory to knot the series up at one game apiece (and end Philadelphia's 17-game winning streak. Miami provided a much more spirited effort on defense in Game 2, and holds home-court advantage for the rest of the series after stealing a win on the road. But Philly expects to have a not-so-secret weapon on the floor in Game 3 in the form of C Joel Embiid, who has appears ready to play after passing concussion protocol and publicly advocating for his return to the court. Embiid was a deserving starter in this year's All-Star game, and, at least in theory, his entrance into the fray could heavily tip the scale in a series in which Philly may have already held an edge.
After a dominating Game 1 performance, Sixers PG Ben Simmons was neutralized in the first half of Game 2 by an aggressive, energized Miami defense. But he adjusted in the second half, and nearly engineered an unlikely comeback to finish with 24 points, nine rebound and eight assists, nearly getting a triple-double for the second straight game. He'll be even more of a problem with Embiid on the floor and, obviously, Embiid is a problem in his own right. A force at the basket and a threat all the way out to the three-point line, Embiid will force the Heat to play disgruntled C Hassan Whiteside (27 total minutes in Games 1-2). Plus, he's an absolutely transformative force on the defense, and will make Miami's attackers think thrice before they head anywhere near the rim. PF Dario Sarics led the Sixers in shot attempts in Game 2 and finished with 23 points (8-21 FG) and nine boards. PF Ersan Ilyasova was also strong, notching 14 points and 11 rebounds. As for the gunners on the perimeter, SG J.J. Redick and SF Robert Covington were largely stifled, combining for 18 points on 7-of-26 shooting. Redick alone had 28 points in Game 1. Both are strong defenders, and will be freed up to be more aggressive on closeouts with Embiid behind them. SG Marco Belinelli had 16 points off the bench, although he was not particularly efficient either (5-13 FG). C Amir Johnson played 22 minutes and grabbed seven rebounds, but he shouldn't be getting those types of minutes in a playoff series at this stage of his career. Reducing his role to is just another benefit of getting Embiid back.
21 points on 8-of-9 first-half shooting constituted the majority of Wade's output in Game 2, but it was his clutchness down the stretch that made it feel like 2006 all over again. With four minutes left in the game, Philly had the ball down only two after trailing by as much as 16 earlier in the fourth quarter. That's when DWade stole the ball from Saric and threw down a dunk on the other end to stretch the lead to four. He then hit a jumper over Simmons with 48 seconds remaining to open Miami's lead to eight and put the game fully out of reach. PF James Johnson had the type of game Erik Spoelstra was hoping for, scoring 18 points on perfect 7-for-7 shooting to for with seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block. He, along with SF Justise Winslow off the bench, helped check Simmons in the first half. PG Goran Dragic scored 20 points and, more importantly, did it on 8-of-14 shooting after having gone 4-of-14 from the floor in Game 1. Starting SG Tyler Johnson had five points in only 14 minutes, while SG Wayne Ellington hit three threes off the bench en route to 11 points. SF Josh Richards had 14 points and five rebounds, and helped fill the role that is ostensibly Whiteside's with a game-high three blocks. PF Kelly Olynyk cooled off from his 26-point outing in Game 1, but remained one of the Heat's most effective weapons on offense. He had 11 points, five rebounds and six assists in 33 minutes off the bench.