CAMDEN, N.J. — There’s a feeling among the 76ers that they were fortunate to escape Miami with a narrow victory in Game 4 of this first-round playoff series. It’s not that they were lucky, necessarily, but more so a sense that it’ll be nearly impossible to duplicate a performance in which they overcame an absurd 27 turnovers.
There’s a simple remedy for sloppy basketball, as Philadelphia coach Brett Brown explained before practice today.
“You can walk it up the floor and you can have your two best players play slow and play conservative,” Brown said, droning on so monotonously that he seemed bored by his own voice. Then he paused and added, “And we’re not doing it.”
The 76ers are looking to knock out the Heat on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center, and they’ll try to do it with the same hastened pace that’s made their offense a challenge to contain throughout the series.
They were the first team since 1986 to win a postseason game despite having that many turnovers, and they’d like to clean that up, but not at the expense of changing who they are.
“It’s the slippery slope we live,” Brown said. “We want to play fast and we want to play free and we want to share the ball.”
He needs his stars to tighten up in order to get the offense clicking again.
All-star center Joel Embiid, who had been out since late March with an orbital fracture and concussion prior to his debut in Game 3, had eight of those turnovers, which Brown attributed to obstructed vision from the protective mask he wore and the difficulty of regaining his rhythm after the layoff.
Ben Simmons, the best player for either team in the series, also had seven turnovers.
The 76ers overcame those issues, which left them down 12 in the third quarter, by locking down defensively in the fourth, when they also limited their turnovers to three and turned seven offensive rebounds into seven second-chance points. They outscored Miami 33-19 over the final 13 minutes.
Philadelphia has averaged almost 117 points per game in this series, posted an offensive efficiency of 111.7 and made more 3-pointers (50) than any other team in the playoffs. They’ve shown some of the league’s best flow and ball circulation on offense, which has helped them have four players averaging at least 18 points per game against Miami.
The outlier was the Heat’s 113-103 victory in Game 2, which featured a memorable performance by Dwyane Wade with 28 points. While Wade’s heroics are the lasting image of that night for most who saw it, the more important point might be what Miami did defensively.
The Heat were highly disruptive that night with an old-school, bullying defense that kept Philadelphia from getting to its game. The 76ers shot 41.7 percent, a dip from the 46.9 they’ve hit otherwise. They actually controlled the ball decently in that game and committed a tolerable 14 turnovers.
It’s worth noting that they didn’t have Embiid then, but the overall feel is what Brown anticipates in Game 5.
“Think about their last memory — Their last memory here was winning, and they did it with a certain style,” Brown said. “We get it. You don’t have to be a wise man to know what is about to happen, what style of play they’re going to try to play, especially when they’re gonna go home if they’re not able to find a win.”
Their fear, though, is that a continuation of their careless offense from Saturday combined with what should be a tenacious effort from a Heat team facing elimination will extend the series.
“We realize that having that many turnovers in a playoff game is a recipe for disaster,” guard J.J. Redick said. “We have to be a lot better there.”