Why did the Heat’s season end in the first round of the playoffs? A look at the reasons

Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers fights through Kelly Olynyk #9 and James Johnson #16 of the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Miami’s playoff run didn’t last long.

The Heat enter the offseason after being eliminated in five games in the first round by the Sixers. Philadelphia earned the series-clinching win Tuesday.

Here’s why the Sixers ended the Heat’s season …

Dominated on the glass: The Sixers’ length hurt the Heat in a lot of areas. Rebounding is at the top of the list. Philadelphia outrebounded Miami 250-205 and finished with a 66-48 edge in offensive rebounds in the series. You can point at this as the reason for the Sixers’ huge 81-38 advantage in second-chance points over the five playoff games. This isn’t really 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). The Heat hoped 7-foot center Hassan Whiteside would help in this department, but he averaged just 6.0 rebounds in a limited role in the series.

Second-half struggles: The Sixers won the series without ever leading at the half. In fact, the Heat outscored the Sixers 287-263 in the first half in the series. But the second half was a totally different story. Philadelphia won the second half by a margin of 308-230. The fourth quarter was the Heat’s big problem in the Sixers’ Games 3 and 4 wins in Miami. The Sixers outscored the Heat 32-14 in the final period of Game 3 to turn a two-point lead at the start of the quarter into a 20-point victory, and 27-19 in the fourth quarter of Game 4 to complete their comeback from a 12-point deficit.  The third quarter was the issue in Game 5, as the Sixers won the period 34-20 to break open a contest that was tied at halftime. Miami’s Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow made just four second-half shots, and Goran Dragic shot 15-of-38 (39.5 percent) in the second half in the series.

Issues at the free-throw line: The margin for error in this series was very small for the Heat. Miami definitely couldn’t afford to leave many points on the table. But that’s exactly what the Heat did with their struggles at the free-throw line. Miami shot 97-of-143 (67.8 percent) at the charity stripe in the series. That percentage would have ranked last in the league in the regular season. With the Sixers entering the playoffs with a top-five defense, those are valuable points the Heat missed out on. Philadelphia outscored Miami 122-97 from the free-throw line in the series. That hurts.

The Hassan Whiteside conundrum: The Heat’s highest-paid player was a non-factor for most of the first-round series. Whiteside averaged 5.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 15.4 minutes in the playoffs. That’s way off his regular-season averages of 14.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 25.3 minutes. Want another telling number? Whiteside scored 26 points on 20 shot attempts in the series. Eight different players have already scored at least 26 points on at least 20 shot attempts in a SINGLE GAME in this year’s playoffs. Foul trouble is one reason behind Whiteside’s diminished playing time — he had more fouls (16) than made shots (9) in the series. But even when fouls weren’t an issue, there were times coach Erik Spoelstra turned to Bam Adebayo or Kelly Olynyk instead of Whiteside. The Heat were outscored by 26 points with Whiteside on the court in the series. With two seasons remaining on his max contract, the Heat have a decision to make this summer when it comes to Whiteside’s future with the organization.

Sixers are the more talented team: This became clearer and clearer as the series went on. Philadelphia had the two best players in the series, center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, and it really wasn’t close. Embiid missed the first two games as he continued to recover from surgery to repair an orbital bone fracture. But he still made his presence felt in three playoff games — all Sixers wins — with 18.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. And Simmons nearly averaged a triple-double in the series with 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 9.0 assists. With Embiid and Simmons on the court together, the Sixers outscored the Heat by 36 points. The Heat used a starless approach this season, but stars win in the playoffs. And that’s what happened in this first-round series.

[Heat’s Dwyane Wade ponders retirement as season ends quietly in Philadelphia]

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