PHILADELPHIA – For 48 hours all the Heat heard about was “The Process.” Miami was reminded of a Game 1 against the Sixers in which they allowed the most points (130) and the most 3-pointers (18) in the team’s postseason history.
Many believed the Sixers were on their way to a sweep.
But not the Heat.
Miami overcame a slow start, opened up a 14-point halftime lead and hung on for a 113-103 victory Monday at the Wells Fargo Center to even the series at 1-1. The Heat’s victory snaps Philadelphia’s 17-game winning streak.
“It was a tough night for us on Saturday,” Kelly Olynyk said about Game 1. “And to come back, bounce back from that and stay level-headed, just bring that, it was tough. … Credit to guys who work their asses off and come to work everyday, with a lunch pail and hard hat. That’s what it takes.”
The Heat watched a 16-point fourth quarter lead reduced to 98-96, but Dwyane Wade added to his brilliant night with the biggest steal of the season, resulting in an easy basket and sparking a 6-0 run that pushed the Heat lead to 104-96 with 2:26 to play.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said Wade’s steal “changed the game.”
“If you pick on defining moment, one defining play I think it was that,” Brown said.
The Heat completely flipped the script from Game 1, closing out on the Sixers’ 3-point shooters and keeping Philadelphia from dictating the pace. Miami held Philadelphia to 41.7 percent shooting from the floor and just 7-of-36 on 3 pointers. The Sixers were 18-of-28 from long distance in their 130-103 Game 1 victory.
Wade led the Heat with 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Goran Dragic had 20 points and James Johnson chipped in with 18.
“I definitely came in with the mentality just to be aggressive tonight,” Wade said. “As (Justise) Winslow told me. … ‘empty the clip.’ I emptied it. But I definitely came in with that mindset. … It’s just in my DNA. I love the stage. As I’ve said multiple times, I play this game for this moment.”
Ben Simmons led the Sixers with 24 points.
The Sixers once again were without Joel Embiid, who missed his 10th straight game after suffering a fractured orbital bone and concussion on March 28.
Here are our five takeaways:
Dwyane Wade turns back the clock: With Dragic in early foul trouble and Josh Richardson still struggling offensively, the Heat’s 15-year veteran put the team on his shoulders. Wade looked a decade younger than his 36 years with 21 first-half points, which helped the Heat turn a nine-point deficit into a 14-point halftime lead. Wade made his first seven shots before missing his only 3-point attempt of the half. His 28 points allowed him to pass Larry Bird and move into 10th place on the all-time playoff scoring list.
“I saw moments,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked what he saw from Wade. “That’s what defines Dwyane Wade. We’ve seen that so much before over his career. He’s not going to be logging the 40 minutes a game like he used to when I coached him a few years ago. But in these compact minutes he can settle the group with his championship level experience just to add a little bit of calm for some of our young guys.”
No 3-peat for the Sixers: The Sixers made 18 threes in Game 1, the most in their postseason history and the most allowed by the Heat in a playoff game. Much of that damage came in the second half when Philadelphia was a sizzling 11-of-15 from long distance. The Heat did a much better job defending the perimeter in Game 2. Philadelphia started 1-of-13 on threes and never really heated up, shooting just 19.4 percent from beyond the arc.
“They shot 64 percent in Game 1,” Wade said. “They made some unbelievable threes. I think also we were a little late getting to their 3-point shooters. Our bigs were a little far back when they were coming off. So today was just about being a little bit up, pressuring the passer a little bit like we did just to make it tough.”
Centers of attention: The spotlight was on the center matchup for Game 2 with Brown turning to Ersan Ilyasova and Spoelstra sticking with the embattled Whiteside. Spoelstra, though, had Whiteside covering Dario Saric while James Johnson was on Ilyasova. Whiteside picked up two fouls in the first quarter. He then was tagged with a third in the second quarter trying to pressure Simmons in the backcourt, and was called for his fourth while setting a screen early in the third quarter. Whiteside came out with 9:25 to play in the third quarter and never returned. He had four points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, but a very impactful 15 minutes according to Spoelstra.
“His activity level was superb,” Spoelstra said. “Without those 15 minutes it might have been totally different. Those were much needed. He got that fourth foul and I had the intention to put him back in the fourth. We just didn’t get around to it when they made their run. They went even smaller, but we can definitely build on that.”
Streak busters: The Sixers entered the playoffs on a 16-game winning streak. They stretched that to 17 with their Game 1 blowout win over the Heat. Of those 17 wins, 12 were by double figures, including four by at least 20 points. That streak had to end sometime. The Heat are just glad they were able to do it in Game 2. Miami’s victory knotted the series at 1-1, with Games 3 and 4 in Miami on Thursday and Saturday. It marked the Sixers’ second loss in 28 home games since Christmas.
“We stole one,” Dragic said. “Now we have to take care of business at home.”
Seizing home court: The Heat were a huge underdog entering this series, and a big reason was the Sixers had the home-court advantage after ending the regular season with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. But the Heat’s Game 2 win has flipped that and Miami how has the home-court advantage in a series that has come down to a best-of-5, with three games still to be played in Miami (Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, 6) and two in Philadelphia (Games 5 and if necessary, 7).
“All we did was get one game,” Spoelstra said. “We have to get back to Miami and rest for a day and start to gear up again. This is a very competitive series.”