Phantoms Open Playoffs with Game 1 Win Over Providence
Sixers survive, beat Heat for 3-1 series lead

Sixers look to squash the Heat's hopes in pivotal Game 4

By Dan Knerr, Sports Talk Philly staff

Tip-off: 2:30 pm ❖ Location: Miami, FL ❖ TV: TNT, NBC Sports Philadelphia ❖ Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic, 97.3 ESPN 

The Philadelphia 76ers (2-1) will take on the Miami Heat (1-2) in a game four match-up at American Airlines Arena this afternoon. 

The Sixers look to push the series to three games to one heading back home for Game 5.  A win this afternoon would almost certainly make this series a lock for the Sixers, who would have three chances at clinching, with two of these being in front of their home crowd.

The Sixers were in control all game on Thursday evening in Embiid’s highly anticipated return to the floor.  Although they took a small deficit into the half, they came out in dominating fashion in the second half.  The Heat hung around until the mid-point in the fourth period, but a complete effort from top to bottom from the Sixers proved to be too much for the Wade and the Heat.

A win this afternoon would be huge in that it would give the Sixers the chance to shorten the series drastically.  Going up three to one with Game 5 on their home floor would give them a great shot at closing out this series before it gets too messy.  This would be huge for their energy levels and stamina in a future playoff series.

Embiid’s Presence on the Road

Joel Embiid shined in his first game back from his orbital bone fracture, going for 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in 30 minutes in a face mask unlike any other we’ve seen before.

He got off to an understandably slow start, considering he had to acclimate himself with a unique face mask, as well as shake off the rust from not playing for a few weeks.

After he got himself going, he dominated in his usual fashion.  He completely changed the game with his defense, and was too much for the Heat offensively. 

What was most impressive from Embiid was his alpha-dog presence in his first ever NBA Playoff game on the road in front of a raucous Miami crowd.  He showed no signs of nerves, and completely shifted the momentum in the series that seemed to be tilting in the Heat’s favor after they stole game two in Philly.

Some of the most encouraging moments in this game for me was how Embiid interacted with the opposing crowd.  After big shots, he would waltz down the floor with some serious attitude.  He even “shushed” the crowd after a huge three.

This confidence and charisma he exhibited on the road in his playoff debut is incredibly encouraging for this team.  He showed that he is not fazed playing on the road, and will even let the crowd know how dominant he is.  This invincibility that Embiid portrays on the road will set the tone for the team as a whole. 

Considering the difficulty of road playoff games in the NBA, Embiid’s intense, yet relaxed presence on the floor will be huge for the Sixers today.  Despite the difficulty of winning back-to-back road playoff games, the Sixers have a shot to do just that this afternoon.

 Dirty Play from the Heat

The Heat do have a notoriously dirty player on their roster in Kelly Olynyk, but it's doubtful that many would foresee the Heat's overall dirty play displayed in this series.  They have been ultra physical all series long, and have clearly been trying to get in the heads of the 76er's.  

In front of their home crowd on Thursday, they really showed a dirty brand of basketball.  Justice Winslow took it upon himself to stomp on Embiid's facemask after it came off Embiid's face.  This earned him a $15,000 fine.  This was a bad look for a player who seemed to be desperately doing anything he could do slow down the juggernaut that Embiid is.

Embiid did not seem to be fazed by Winslow's petty move.

What was most surprising was seeing Dwyane Wade, an overall class-act and future hall-of-famer, grab Justin Anderson's arm and yank him into the crowd.  This was a deviation from the way he usually carries himself, and it was surprising to see.  It seems that he may have been feeling the growing frustration of having a home playoff game slip away from him.

Overall, I feel that this highly aggressive play from the Heat is a product of them knowing they need to do whatever they can to keep the series in reach, even if it requires some extra-curricular activity.  They seem to be outmatched by this surging Sixers team, and are searching for new ways to slow them down in any way they can.

Justin Anderson was clearly angry and shocked after being thrown to the ground by Wade.  After this, he responded with two big threes that helped keep the Sixers' lead.  He had a quality outing, and if he can come off the bench again today and hit a few spot-up threes, that should really help the team's chances of winning this tough game.

Belinelli is on Fire

Marco Belinelli has been playing as well as anyone could hope for in this series.  He is averaging 20.7 points on 48.8% shooting from the field and 43.5% shooting from three-point range in 32 minutes off the bench. 

This is incredible production from the Sixer's sixth man.  Having him score like this adds a new dynamic to the 76ers that makes them very tough to beat. 

This seems to be the culmination of his 10-year career.  He hasn't really been on a team that has relied on his veteran presence as much as this Sixers team has.  They are a young team that needs a veteran leader to pull them through tough games.  He has risen to the occasion, and is playing some of the best basketball of his career.

Belinelli is the type of player a young playoff team needs coming off the bench to continue to get production even when the starters are not on the floor.  Look for him to continue his efficiency and effectiveness this afternoon.

Matchup Preview | April 21, 2018
@
Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers Lead Series 2-1 Miami Heat

Projected Starters
Ben Simmons Point Guard Goran Dragic
J.J. Reddick Shooting Guard Tyler Johnson
Robert Covington Small Forward Josh Richardson
Dario Saric Power Forward James Johnson
Joel Embiid Center Hassan Whiteside
Injury Report
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
(knee/out)
   

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