Five takeaways: Sixers rally for 106-102 win over Heat to take 3-1 lead in series

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) blocks a shot by Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) in the fourth quarter in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Saturday, April 21, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

MIAMI — A game that looked to be going the Heat’s way turned into a nightmare.

The Sixers erased a 12-point Heat lead with a huge run over the third and fourth quarters to rally for a 106-102 victory Saturday and take complete control of the first-round series. Philadelphia now heads home for Tuesday’s Game 5 with a 3-1 lead.

Miami led by 12 with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter, but Philadelphia closed the game on a 42-26 run to complete the comeback.

“We didn’t get the job done. That’s sometimes the way it goes,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We did a lot of things well enough to put ourselves in a better position to win. We just didn’t do it. They did down the stretch and we paid the price for that. So now what we have to focus in on is gathering ourselves.”

After Philadelphia outscored the Heat 32-14 in the fourth quarter of Game 3, a poor final period hurt Miami again. The Heat were outscored 27-19 over the final 12 minutes Saturday.

“We all feel that we’re this close,” Spoelstra said with his hands signaling the small distance he believes separates his team from the Sixers. “That’s what makes this game tough. They made bigger plays than us in the fourth quarter. We played really good basketball through most of the game, but we’ve had a tough time finishing games against Philadelphia and that’s been the issue.”

Sixers point guard Ben Simmons led the rally with nine points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter. The rookie phenom finished with a triple-double that included 17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals.

Philadelphia was able to overcome 27 turnovers and 7-of-31 shooting from 3-point range with an impressive rebounding performance. The Sixers finished with a 57-43 edge on the glass.

Dwyane Wade tried to will the Heat back late in the game with 12 fourth-quarter points, but it wasn’t enough. Wade scored a game-high 25 on 10-of-22 shooting.

Here are our five takeaways …

Sixers dominate on the glass … again: One of the biggest struggles for the Heat this series has been on the glass. That continued Saturday, as the Sixers outrebounded the Heat 57-43 in Game 4. Philadelphia now has a lopsided 197-165 edge in rebounds and a 57-38 edge in offensive rebounds in the series. This advantage helped negate the Sixers’ turnover problems and poor shooting from 3-point range in Game 4.

“Guys got to box out and just get the ball,” said Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who finished with 13 rebounds. “It’s a big part of the game, the biggest part of the game, rebounding.

“You’ve just got to track the ball, you know. … That’s normally what I do. I just track the ball. With them shooting so many threes, a lot of times it’s bouncing out to the 3-point line. Those are the ones we struggle with.”

Heat missed too many free throws: In a game this important and this close, free throws are especially valuable. But the Heat didn’t make the most of their opportunities from the charity stripe. Miami made 13-of-25 free throws Saturday. In what turned into a possession game, just a few more made free throws could have turned this from a Heat loss to a Heat win. Miami is shooting 69.4 percent from the line in the series.

“I think we played very well. We’re a very good team,” Spoelstra said. “Sometimes, unfortunately, it might be as simple as missing 12 free throws and having that disparity on the free-throw line. It’s good opportunities for freebies there and we weren’t able to capitalize on it.”

THIS is physical basketball: Game 3 wasn’t physical enough for you? Well, Game 4 was for you. The physical series continued Saturday with hard fouls, ejections and plenty of trash talk between the two teams. The tension was at its highest in the second quarter when James Johnson took exception to Robert Covington’s hard foul on Goran Dragic and pushed Covington into the stanchion. Sixers point guard Ben Simmons rushed in to defend Covington, which caused Johnson to get in Simmons’ face. Both players had to be pulled away from each other, with technical fouls called on Johnson and Covington. At the same time as that skirmish, Miami’s Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson were down in pain after diving for a loose ball on the other end of the court. Winslow returned to the game after receiving four stitches for a cut over his left eye and Richardson returned after suffering a left shoulder contusion. In the third quarter, Whiteside and Philadelphia’s Dario Saric were called for double technicals. All of this comes after the Heat and Sixers combined for 56 personal fouls and six technical fouls in Game 3. And we still have at least one more game left in this series.

“It was nothing. It’s just a physical game,” Dragic said of Covington’s hard foul, which led to the second-quarter skirmish. “I don’t care. It goes both ways. The only thing I saw when I stood up was J-Rich on the floor, so I kind of ran up there to see if he was OK.”

Hassan Whiteside finally makes impact: The Heat’s $98 million center was a non-factor in the first three games of the series. But Whiteside made an impact in Game 4, finishing with 13 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes on Saturday. It marked the most points, rebounds and minutes he’s recorded in the series. Over the first three games, Whiteside combined for just 11 points and 12 rebounds. So Whiteside exceeded those three-game totals in Game 4 alone. It didn’t result in a victory, but it was encouraging to see some signs of life from Whiteside.

“He responded in a great way,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what I love about the playoffs. These are opportunities to grow, to develop your competitive character and the only way to develop that is to actually be in these type of playoffs. It’s intense. It’s emotional. You get uncomfortable. That’s what we all signed up for. That’s why we love this. It beats a regular day job. But I was really encouraged with the way he responded to everything the last week.”

Sixers get sloppy, but it didn’t matter: The Sixers finished the regular season averaging the most turnovers (16.5) in the league. But it looked like Philadelphia had solved that problem, as they averaged just 12.7 turnovers over the first three games of the series. The issue popped up again in Game 4, though, and Miami couldn’t take full advantage. The Heat scored 30 points off 27 Sixers turnovers. Richardson (7 steals) and Dragic (4 steals) combined to record 11 steals. Miami’s physical play made the game choppy and seemed to affect Philadelphia’s offensive flow. But the Sixers cleaned things up in the fourth quarter with just three turnovers over the final 12 minutes.

“The fact you can with a playoff game with this volume of turnovers is mind-boggling,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “We settled down in the fourth period and the execution the team showed when it mattered with some pick and roll stuff offensively won us the game.”

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