The Miami HEAT is in the midst of a fantastic series versus the 76ers. The games have been beautiful to watch with dozens of lead changes combined with emotional physical play that has led to several on-court altercations. Although the games have been close for the most part, the Sixers are the team with the superior talent and have shown poise during the last two 4th quarters which has led to consecutive road playoff victories. This is an impressive feat for a team so young and signals that a changing of the guard in the Eastern Conference is on the horizon.
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are the best two players on the court each game and they both have hall of fame potential. They are the difference makers for the Sixers, and the HEAT don’t have anyone on their roster aside from a vintage Wade outburst, that can match them each night.
The Sixers supporting roster is also full of a daunting combination of size, speed, three-point shooting, and athleticism that is activated by Simmons and Embiid. They are expected to be a juggernaut in a few years, but they might be here now.
So do the HEAT have any kind of chance to win the next game, or this series? Of course they do, and here are five adjustments the HEAT must make to bring the series back to Miami.
Step 1. Start Dwyane Wade – It’s time for Spoelstra to throw everything at the Sixers and start Dwywane Wade in game 5. The HEAT are +13 with Wade on the court in the series and his energy and scoring is sorely needed in the 1st quarter, since the HEAT have won the first quarter only once in the series. If you are going to go out, then go out punching with your best player on the floor to start the game.
Step 2. Deploy The Zone – When Ben Simmons is on the floor, deploy a 2-3 zone in spots to force Simmons to make the right pass each time. Yes, Simmons notched a triple-double in game 4, but he also collected 7 turnovers during the process. If anything, changing defensive looks may force Simmons into a bad pass or bad shot at the right time for the HEAT.
Step 3. Win the 4th quarter – If the HEAT are going to extend this series they must win the 4th quarter of game 5. In the last two games, the HEAT needed to win the 4th quarter to win the game and were outplayed and outhustled by a younger Sixers team both times. The lack of focus in the fourth led to several offensive rebounds by the Sixers which led to dagger shots. The must play like a veteran team and win the 4th quarter.
Step 4. Send in UD – The HEAT need a tone-setting moment in this series and Udonis Haslem is ready and waiting to make his presence felt. A few minutes with Udonis Haslem on Simmons in the post could provide the emotional spark that is needed before entering the fourth quarter. Udonis Haslem may not be fleet of foot any longer but he can definitely still guard in the post and grab some boards with elbows swinging. The HEAT were outrebounded 57-43 in game 4 and that speaks to a lack of toughness and focus. Udonis’ presence would fix that.
Step 5. Start Small – Starting small means inserting Olynyk at the center position in order to pull Embiid out of the post to cover Olynk’s three-point range. This also allows the HEAT to force Embiid to guard pick and roll situations with Wade or Dragic that could lead to early foul trouble for Embiid. Whiteside would come in with the second unit where he would have a physical advantage (hopefully) over Amir Johnson in the paint. On the defensive side, instead of helping Olynyk in the post against Embiid, the HEAT should stay home on the Sixers shooters and force Embiid to make tough shots. The Sixers are shooting 39% from the three-point line in the series so the HEAT must take that away.
The HEAT are going to need to make these adjustments and play near perfect basketball in game 5 to bring the series back to Miami for a game 6. At this point they have nothing to lose, so it’s time to go deep into their bag of tricks to save their season.
Flip the page to see how Dwyane Wade responded to my question on what the HEAT need to do to keep their season alive.