By John Carroll
The Sixers won a hard fought game versus the Heat on Sunday. Doug Collins did a masterful job of getting his young team to believe in themselves, and they were rewarded for all of their hard work with a 86-82 win. The Sixers had been knocking on the door in three of the four games versus the Heat but could not score easily enough over 48 minutes or rebound the ball well enough to win. They finally put it together on the offensive and defensive end of the floor in Game 4.
One of the biggest keys to the Sixers victory in Game 4 was their physicality. The Heat had pounded the Sixers on the glass in previous games. Fortunately for Philadelphia they were much more physical and they initiated contact when the ball went up on the glass. Instead of waiting for the Heat to come to them they went and sought out contact. They got into bodies and out rebounded the Heat (49-41) for the first time in this series.
Game 5 Adjustments
The Miami Heat are still in control of this series but they have some glaring problems that may cause them some trouble down the road. These problems may not stop them from winning this series but they could stop them from advancing in the playoffs. Through the first four games of this series the Heat are getting 72% of their scoring from Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. In Sunday’s loss that number skyrocketed up to 79%. Not getting help from their 2 other starters or their bench contributed to their Game 4 loss. The rest of the team only shot 20% (5-25) from the field. Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas only combined for 1 point. This lack of scoring and contribution from any one other than their big three has been a problem all year, but they have managed to overcome it. That will not be the case in future as teams will pack it in and protect the paint daring the complimentary players on the Heat roster to beat them.
The Heat must get back to their winning formula in Game 5. They must defend at a very high level, attack the glass and execute much better on offense. When the Heat decide they want to play defense, they make it very hard on the Sixers to score. With their size, length and athleticism they force the Sixers to score in the half court and that is not a pretty sight. In this series the Heat have not defended for the entire 48 minutes in any game yet. Secondly the Heat must pound the glass and outrebound the Sixers. They have done it in every game except Game 4 and it has been a big reason they are up 3-1. Lastly they must get better ball movement, and floor balance throughout the game. There are too many times that they get stagnant.
They must find the right balance between James and Wade going 1-1 and other players standing around watching. Bosh was relegated to long distance jump shots in the fourth quarter of Game 4 and they need him to score both inside and out for the Heat to be effective. The Heat need their complimentary players Mike Bibby, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, James Jones, Mario Chalmers to be involved offensively and make meaningful contributions. The Heat will not advance through the playoffs with such a lopsided scoring out put from just Wade, James and Bosh.
The transition game will decide Game 5. The Sixers are at their best when they defend, rebound and run. They are a young team that struggles to get quality shots in the half court on a consistent basis. When they are in the open court they score much more easily. The Sixers pushed the ball and got 13 points in transition in the first quarter. Unfortunately they only had 2 more points on the break in the final three quarters. The Miami Heat’s Achilles heel is transition defense. If the Sixers have any chance of winning Game 5, they must put points up on the board in transition.
One of the biggest keys to beating Miami is to keep them off the free throw line. This had been statistically a big advantage for the Heat in this series. Miami comes into Game 5 with a +49 advantage from the free throw line. In Game 4 Miami was not as aggressive as they had been in prior games. The Heat only got to the foul line 21 times for a +5 advantage. The Heat settled way too much for perimeter jump shots. They were an uncharacteristic (5-23) 21.7 from behind the 3 point line. Taking more 3 point shots than free throws is a recipe for disaster. The Heat must continue to attack the rim, get into the paint, and get to the free throw line.
The Sixers will need a combination of their veterans Elton Brand and Andre Igoudala (combined for 31 points in Game 4) and their younger players Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner making big contributions for this team to win Game 5. The young players Williams and Turner combined for 34 points in Game 4 but that was in the friendly confines of their home court. Late in Game 4, Doug Collins had Williams, Turner, Young, Spencer Hawes all on the court at the same time. The Sixers have a bright future with this group. Whether they are good enough now to knock off the Heat is another story. We will have to wait till Wednesday night to see that.
Prediction: Miami wins Game 5