If I needed a cigarette after game three, I need an oxygen tank after game four.
You saw a little bit of everything on Saturday – fighting, fouling, scrapping, turnovers, huge defensive stops, and a tight fourth quarter finish. Through it all, the Sixers kept their head above water and found a way to win a playoff road game while being totally out of whack for the better part of two and a half quarters.
The fact that they turned the ball over 26 times and still came out on top is nothing short of astounding. If Miami can’t get it done after throwing a haymaker barrage for the second straight game, then it’s time to wrap this series up and move on to the next round. The Heat fly back to Philadelphia down 3 to 1 in the series after failing to capitalize on two performances that probably should have been good enough for at least one win.
This game gave us our first truly tight fourth quarter, a series of possessions where we can really analyze how Brett Brown and the Sixers operated in crunch time.
It was 100-99 Philly with 1:00 to play and possession of the ball after a Joel Embiid turnover and Dwyane Wade layup. With the half-full American Airlines Arena finally showing a pulse, Brown went to the team’s staple horns set, and a JJ Redick back screen gave Ben Simmons a free run to the rim:
That’s a defensive mixup between Josh Richardson and James Johnson, and Simmons saw it all the way.
On the other end, Wade would answer with a 16-footer of his own, which brought us back down the floor with the Sixers again leading by one, this time with 30.1 seconds remaining. Brown went to another play that’s worked well before, something they used in the regular season in Miami, the Joel Embiid and Redick 25 action:
Very simple dribble hand off and a huge screen on Richardson, who got abused on the second straight possession with Hassan Whiteside unable to help. The only thing you’d ask for there is for Redick to get his feet behind the three point line. Otherwise, that’s perfectly run.
On the other end, Joel Embiid was whistled for a foul on Wade, though I think the refs got the wrong man. Embiid seemed to get all ball after Robert Covington had slapped Wade’s arm and caused the ball to pop free, yet Joel got the foul instead.
After Wade missed his second free throw, Redick crashed the glass for a rebound, took a Heat foul, and converted both foul shots at the other end. That was enough for a four point win after Miami missed on their final possession at the game.
They just executed mentally and physically in that final minute. They answered tough buckets with well-run sets and hit the free throws when it mattered.
Playoff basketball often comes down to fourth quarter half court possessions, and in their first real test of that this postseason, the players and the coach passed with flying colors.