Miscommunication leads to strategy – fouling Ben Simmons – that is key to Miami Heat win

Miami Heat guards Dwyane Wade, and Goran Dragic celebrate after Wade’s game-winning shot against the 76ers on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI – A communication breakdown led to Dwyane Wade intentionally fouling Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons with 24 seconds to play Tuesday and the game tied.

In the end, after Simmons missed 1 of 2 free throws and Wade knocked down the winning shot with 5.9 seconds to play, it worked out.

“We bungled all that,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after the 102-101 victory. “It’s almost like we did everything wrong at the end and still come out with the win.”

The Heat tied the game with 27 seconds remaining when Wade made three free throws. But that’s where the miscommunication comes in. At first, Spoelstra didn’t know if Wade was fouled shooting a two or a three and told Goran Dragic if it were two (meaning the Heat would trail by a point if Wade made both) to make sure to foul Simmons, a rookie who was shooting 56.9 percent from the free throw line entering the game.

“We started to talk about that, if it’s two (shots) then we were going to trap and try to foul Simmons if he caught the ball,” Spoelstra said. “Then it was three (shots), so Goran was trying to get my attention and say, ‘are we doing this at three?’

“I was trying to communicate with Goran – without Dwyane seeing it (and thinking) I had a lack of trust in Dwyane making all three – if he misses one (to foul Simmons). If he makes all three, good. But I was trying to do that without Dwyane seeing it.”

Dragic and Wade were confused and Wade fouled Simmons as soon as he received the in-bounds pass.

The thought of taking the foul even in a tie game crossed Spoelstra’s mind since he’s seen that strategy employed in Europe.

“The last two years in the summer when I’ve gone to Slovenia I’ve seen that technique from the European coaches,” he said. “They take the foul so they can have the ball at the end. The first time I saw it I thought ‘wow, that’s interesting’ and I kept on seeing it over and over and over.”

Dragic, having been on teams during international play that took that foul, and Wade also were thinking about fouling Simmons.

“Me and D-Wade were talking about let’s foul Simmons,” Dragic said. “In the end, the last few games we did everything and we didn’t get the win. Tonight, we choose a different path and we got the win. So. we’re really happy with this win.”

Said Wade: “I had confidence in myself that I was going to make all three. I’m not the best free throw shooter on the team this year but I definitely had confidence in myself. They kept running that 2-5 pick and roll (with center Joel Embid rolling to the basket) and it was killing us. I just felt playing the numbers, the young fella, to see him in this environment what he’s going to do. If he would have gone up there and made both we would have called time out and tried to figure it out. But he got one and missed and that’s what we needed.”

But Wade, who actually is shooting well from the line since returning to Miami making 81.8 percent, realized the consequences if Simmons made both and the Heat failed to convert on the other end.

“If we would have lost I would have taken it on the chin,” he said.

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