MIAMI — If there’s one play that represents the aggressive and physical style the Heat used to defeat the Sixers in Game 2, it probably involves the matchup between Justise Winslow and Ben Simmons.
With the Heat ahead 34-31 in the second quarter, Winslow picked Simmons up the full length of the court and stayed with him until eventually drawing an offensive foul on the Sixers’ point guard. After the play, an emotional Winslow yelled some not-so-nice words in Simmons’ direction.
“I just tried to get into his body, force him to trust his dribble and when he attacked the basket he pushed off and they called the offensive foul,” Winslow said in advance of Thursday’s Game 3.
That play helped set the tone for a physical Game 2.
“I love it,” Winslow said of playing that style. “I’m a physical defender. I don’t like the ticky-tack fouls. I like getting into the ball and just being a beast on the ball defensively. So, I like how the refs are letting both teams play. I think that’s good for both sides.”
James Johnson is the only Heat player who’s defended Simmons more than Winslow over the first two games of the first-round series. Winslow has spent 31 possessions defending Simmons, and Simmons has scored just seven points on 2-of-6 shooting against him.
Winslow has used his 6-foot-7, 225-pound frame to try to bother the 6-foot-10 Simmons.
“It’s the playoffs,” Winslow said. “I’ve been watching a lot of film. I’m a student of the game. I’m always watching ESPN classics, just the 80s, 90s, how physical it was. They don’t let us play that physical, but it’s definitely increased in the physicality, the intensity. The refs let you play a little bit more in the playoffs. The first game we didn’t really understand that and the intensity we needed to bring. That’s what we brought the second game.”
That physicality has created some tension between the two teams, which is likely to increase as the series goes on.
“It increases every game, every possession it increases,” Winslow said. “We both know what’s at stake. We’re trying to get to that next round by any means necessary. I probably won’t like those guys even more by Game 5. It’s just what it is.”
If that means playing the villain role, Winslow is fine with that.
“I can be the bad guy if that means winning,” he said.