The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Miami Heat 130-103 in Game 1 of their first round series in the NBA playoffs last night. The 76ers, who were without star center Joel Embiid, were led by the brilliant three-point barrage put on by J.J. Redick, Dario Saric, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marco Belinelli. The Sixers made 18 total three-pointers in the game. Sixers point guard Ben Simmons also put on a show, scoring 17 points and coming up just a rebound shy of another triple-double stat line. The Heat, on the other hand, were led by Kelly Olynyk‘s 26 points. He was one of the lone bright spots for the Heat in last night’s game, despite willing them to a halftime lead. The dismal performances of star center Hassan Whiteside and all-star point guard Goran Dragic, however, were too much for Miami to overcome. Whiteside, who played just 12 minutes, only scored two points and grabbed six rebounds in the game. Dragic shot just 4-14 from the field and turned the ball over four times as he did not impact the game in his usual way.
While the Heat will surely need to play better in order to have a chance in this series, they should hold off on pushing the panic button. The Heat will play one more game in Philadelphia before playing the next two at home in Miami. Winning the games played at home in Miami will be crucial to the Heat’s chances of advancing to the second round. With that in mind, let’s look at several other keys as the Heat attempt to turn this series around.
First and foremost, Hassan Whiteside is going to have to play much more efficiently in order to give his team a chance to win. The Heat’s most polarizing defender had a terrible game on both ends of the floor. He was consistently outworked on the glass and disappeared on offense. Whiteside is one of the NBA’s top defenders and has proven to have the capability to alter and block just about anyone’s shot when they challenge him at the rim. His talent level is much higher than what he showed last night. He was also outplayed and outnumbered in minutes by first-round pick Bam Adebayo. The Heat will need him to return to form in order to save their season.
Secondly, the Heat will need to play much better three-point defense and run the 76ers’ sharpshooters off of the three-point line. The sixers made 18 three-points at a 64.3% clip in Game 1 and have many players who can be deadly shooters when given enough space. Miami will not be able to win many games if they allow their opponent to shoot that many three-pointers and make the at that high of a percentage. This will need to be a point of emphasis for head coach Erik Spoelstra going forward.
Lastly, the Heat will need to be much more careful with the ball in future games. Miami turned the ball over a total of 18 times in Game 1. Because of this, the sixers were able to put up 17 more shots than the Heat and had many more opportunities to score. Ball security was a problem for the entire team, as only Goran Dragic turned the ball over more than two times during the game. Miami will need to focus on protecting the ball against some very stingy Philadelphia defenders in the next game.
If the Heat focus on improving these three problems from Game 1, they will put themselves in a much better position to be successful in the series and keep their season alive. However, should they play similar to how they played in Game 1, it will be very tough for the Heat to even win a game.