MIAMI — The Heat will look to even their first-round playoff series against the Sixers in Saturday’s Game 4 at 2:30 p.m. Philadelphia enters with a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Here are five things to know entering Game 4 (we know three games is a small sample size) …
* Dwyane Wade is the only Heat player with a positive plus-minus through the first three playoff games. Miami has outscored Philadelphia by three points in the 71 minutes Wade has played. On the flip side, the Heat have been outscored by 40 points in the 73 minutes Wade has not played. With the future Hall of Famer only averaging 23.5 minutes of playing time in the series, an argument can be made that he should play more moving forward.
* The Sixers are packing the paint with extra defenders and it’s working. The Heat are shooting 47.9 percent from within six feet of the basket through the first three games of the series — 14.5 percent worse than their normal shooting percentage within that range. This has helped frustrate center Hassan Whiteside and limit his touches. Plus, the return of All-Star center Joel Embiid makes the Sixers’ interior defense even better. The Heat shot just 33.3 percent (6-of-18) from within six feet of the basket in Embiid’s return in Game 3. And when Embiid was the primary defender Thursday, Miami finished 0-of-4 from within that range. The result of all this? The Heat are averaging 30.0 paint points in the playoffs, which is far off their regular-season average of 44.9.
* Playing physical without fouling has been a struggle for the Heat in the series. The Heat committed a season-high 30 personal fouls in Thursday’s Game 3 loss. This comes after Miami committed 27 personal fouls in Game 2, which is the third-highest number this season. The result has been 66 points at the free-throw line (22.0 per game) for the Sixers through the first three games. Opponents scored 18.0 points per game at the charity stripe against Miami in the regular season.
* It looks like Goran Dragic has found a way to be effective on offense despite the Sixers’ length. The 6-foot-9 Robert Covington seemed to bother Dragic in Game 1, when the Heat’s point guard finished 1-of-6 from within five feet of the basket. But Dragic has been a lot better ever since, making 6-of-8 from within that range over Games 2 and 3. Dragic has actually been a bright spot for the Heat in the series, as he’s averaging 19.3 points on 50 percent shooting and 5.0 assists in the playoffs.
* The Sixers have dominated on the glass. Through the first three games of the series, Philadelphia has outrebounded Miami 140-122 and also has a 40-25 edge in offensive rebounds. This has led to a huge advantage in second-chance points for the Sixers, which lead the Heat 56-21 in this department for the series. This isn’t necessarily surprising, considering Philadelphia finished the regular season as the top rebounding team in the league (47.4 rebounds per game) and fifth in second-chance points (13.7 per game).