Posts for heat

Pat Riley Says Hassan Whiteside Was “Less Than” In the Playoffs

Kevin Kinkead - April 30, 2018

You could be blind as a bat and still have read between the lines.

Hassan Whiteside and Erik Spoelstra were not on the same page and never were on the same page. The Miami center looked like he wasn’t even close to being mentally or physically prepared for an NBA playoff series.

Heat President Pat Riley said as much when he spoke on Monday about his team’s first-round playoff exit to the Sixers:

“By the time we got to the playoffs, I don’t think he was ready,” Riley said. “He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape. He wasn’t fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He and we got our heads handed to us.

“The disconnect between he and Spo, that’s going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan. How will Hassan transform his thinking — 99 percent of it — to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective?”

I’ll translate:

Hassan Whiteside is soft. I’ve stayed away from “hot takes” during my first year on the Sixers beat, but I feel confident enough as a relative newcomer to identify this guy as a total slug.

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Let’s Ring That F%$#@!& Bell – Observations from Sixers 104, Heat 91

Kevin Kinkead - April 25, 2018

The cool part about wrapping up a series is that you get a lot of great post game quotes. If the first three or four games are coded in cliche with generic answers to generic questions, then guys finally start to open up when one team moves on and the other goes home.

That’s what I’ll focus on this morning, because frankly it’s hard to get motivated to break down another chippy and redundant Miami and Philly game when we can now look ahead to round two.

It was the same blue print in game five; the Sixers didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half, survived the Heat’s best punch, and then pulled away in the third quarter for what became a 13-point win. They followed up game four’s 26 turnover effort with only 15 this time around and grabbed 9 offensive rebounds to offset a chunk of lost possessions. JJ Redick led the team with 27 points while Joel Embiid looked much better on the offensive end in a 19 and 12 performance with only four turnovers.

One of the main themes of this series was the Sixers’ success rebounding the ball and the lack of drop-off you saw in that department when Brett Brown used his smaller, four-shooter lineups, which Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke about Tuesday night:

“Look, they’re a good rebounding team regardless, whether you have size or not. As the series started to move, we started to make adjustments, and at times put some of our perimeter players like Josh Richardson and Dwyane (Wade) on their forwards, Ilyasova and Saric. At times they really took advantage of that, not in the post or in your typical fashion, it was more on the glass or just wearing on you body to body. They do a tremendous job on the offensive glass and on the other side of the floor defending, what makes them a very good defensive team is that they’re able to finish possessions, finish them with rebounds.”

Yep, he’s right. Miami just started to wear a bit in the second half of these games, and when the Sixers went small, they were able to space the floor, assert their style of play, and still defend and rebound at a high level.

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Game Five: What to Watch For

Kevin Kinkead - April 24, 2018

The Sixers can finish the job at home tonight, and it’ll probably be more interesting than Andre Iguodala hitting a pair of free throws against the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls.

I’m intrigued to see how Miami comes out after losing both games at home. Do we see utter lethargy and despair? I don’t know. Maybe those guys are thinking, “hey, listen, we won the last game in Philly, so let’s give it a go.”

What I do know is that your 76ers should be frothing at the mouth to finish off the Heat and turn attention to the Boston/Milwaukee matchup, a 2-2 series with neither team looking like a world beater thus far.

What to watch for tonight:

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Sixers Notes: Coach Curmudgeon and the Crushing Blow

Kevin Kinkead - April 23, 2018

JJ Redick was asked on Monday afternoon how a close-out game differs from any other game in a playoff series.

He started by explaining that both teams begin by throwing jabs, then stopped to ask a rhetorical question:

“Why are boxing analogies so perfect for every other sport?” Redick laughed. “I don’t know why. But no, you’re throwing jabs and feeling each other out. Then later on in the series you have to deliver a crushing blow; you have to finish them. A team like Miami, their culture, their organization, their group of guys, they have fighters and warriors on their team. Every game in this series has been tough, and there’s no expectation that game five will be any different.”

That’s what the Sixers will try to do on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center – deliver the crushing blow. They ripped off a game four win despite turning the ball over 26 times and struggling through three quarters before turning up the intensity and executing brilliantly in the fourth quarter.

Redick was asked if he views game four in a positive lens or whether he feels like the team has a lot of things to improve on in game five.

“I think you’d be doing your opponent a disservice if you didn’t acknowledge how difficult it is to win a playoff game,” he said. So I think we can always take positives from any playoff win, especially against a team that is together and playing hard. But we I think realize that having that many turnovers in a playoff game is a recipe for disaster. I think we have to be a lot better there.”

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Took Their Best Punch – Observations from Sixers 106, Heat 102

Kevin Kinkead - April 22, 2018

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.

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Garbage Time Layups: Legitimate Beef or a Big Nothingburger?

Kevin Kinkead - April 20, 2018

It was 127 to 108 with four seconds remaining last night when Dario Saric drove to the rim for a layup attempt.

He was cut off and blocked by Kelly Olynyk, a hard downward slap but nothing truly malicious, as the Heat center/power foward looked to keep the homie from extending a 19-point lead with an easy garbage time bucket.

The play began with a defensive rebound and quick transition up the court. The Sixers could have easily just walked it up and run out the clock, but they did this instead:

Asshole play? Or totally fair?

You see a bit of a stare from Olynyk. He’s not giving that up at the end of the game, and I don’t blame him.

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Beat ’em at their Own Game – Observations from Sixers 128, Heat 108

Kevin Kinkead - April 20, 2018

I felt like I needed a cigarette after that game, and I don’t even smoke.

Talk about a slug fest; we watched two teams exchange blow after blow and come back for more. There was fouling and clutching and yelling and jawing and scrapping and one guy even grabbed another dude by the arm and pulled him off the court. Another guy stepped on someone’s goggles and we also saw the Slovenian guy flex at the Italian guy in some sort of 2013 EuroBasket redux beef.

Through all of that, the Sixers never really truly seemed as nervous as fans on social media. Miami successfully junked it up, slowed down the game, and got the whistles blowing, but the Sixers found an answer for everything thrown at them. They answered physicality with their own physicality. They countered a 48.5% three point mark with a 52.9% effort of their own. They ratcheted up the defense, got some stops, and then just showed their superior talent in what became a 20 point win.

If one thing stands out more than anything, it’s obviously the performance of Joel Embiid, who went for 23, 7, and 4 in his first game since March 28th. Specifically, it was Brett Brown’s decision to give Embiid 30 minutes and allow him to shake off a 0-5 start from the field, which Joel turned into a 5-11 overall mark and 10-15 effort from the foul line. He was typically stout on the defensive end and blocked and altered shots that Miami had been converting in games one and two.

Go down the list and you find contributions across the board. Dario Saric put up 21 points. Ben Simmons went for 19, 12, and 7. Marco Belinelli hit some big shots early to keep Miami from building a lead. The entire team only turned it over 12 times and showed a lot of mental fortitude out there.

All of those things add up to a really nice road win. These are the types of games where young guys learn what playoff basketball is all about.

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Game Three: Five Things to Watch For

Kevin Kinkead - April 19, 2018

The Sixers can get it done without Joel Embiid.

That might be the biggest topic of the past 48 hours, Joel’s game three status, but we’re talking about a team that just won nine games in a row minus the superstar center.

When you re-watch game two, you can look at Miami’s increased pressure and physical play and tip your hat to Dwyane Wade for his phenomenal individual effort. You can also look at the fact that the Sixers didn’t shoot the ball well, suffered a horrendous second quarter, and still cut the lead to two points deep in the fourth quarter.

Going with the glass half full approach, we’ll start with that topic:

1. Uncontested Field Goals

How much of the Sixers’ shooting struggles were due to Miami’s more intense approach, versus simply missing open shots?

Luckily for us, the NBA keeps statistics to help us determine that.

I edited the chart below to show each player’s minutes and overall field goal percentage. The other six categories are fairly straightforward:

  • CFGM = contested field goals made
  • CFGA = contested field goals attempted
  • CFG% = contested field goal percentage
  • UFGM = uncontested field goals made
  • UFGA = uncontested field goals attempted
  • UFG% = uncontested field goal percentage

The NBA defines a contested field goal as “any shot where the closest defender is within 3.5 feet.”

Taking that into account, here you go:

They only shot 30.2% on uncontested looks. JJ Redick was especially poor here, hitting just 1-9 vs. a 3-4 contested field goal mark. Marco Belinelli hit just 3 of 10 uncontested looks and Robert Covington was 2-7.

For comparison, those three players were 6-10 (Redick), 6-11 (Belinelli), and 3-6 (Covington) in this category in game one. The entire team was 56.5% in uncontested field goals, so it lends a lot of truth to the idea that they just weren’t hitting on Monday night. Still, you give credit to Miami for being disruptive and pestering on the perimeter and making guys more uncomfortable in general, but I highly doubt the Sixers shoot 19.4% from three again this series.

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