NBA playoffs: J.J. Redick, 76ers out to hit Heat with ‘crushing blow’

J.J. Redick is enjoying the back and forth of the 76ers-Heat series.(Getty Images)

CAMDEN, N.J. — The first-round playoff series between the Heat and 76ers feels more contentious to the players than it’s actually been. Philadelphia has a 3-1 lead after sweeping two games in Miami and can win its first postseason series since in six years by taking Game 5 on Tuesday.

The 76ers’ victories in Games 1 and 3 came by a total of 47 points, though they were interrupted by Dwyane Wade leading Miami to a 113-103 win in between. Game 4 saw the Heat lead by as many as 12 in the third quarter before Philadelphia zeroed in to overtake them 106-102.

Now that they seem to know exactly what they’re getting from each other, the next game promises to be a compelling fight.

“At the start of the series you’re throwing jabs,” guard J.J. Redick said. “Why are boxing analogies just so perfect for every other sport? You’re throwing jabs and feeling each other out, then later on in the series you have to deliver a crushing blow.

“You have to finish them. A team like Miami, their culture and organization and their group of guys, they have fighters and warriors on their team. Every game in the series has been tough. There’s no expectation that Game 5 will be any different.”

The Heat have quite a bit of playoff experience up and down their roster, but Philadelphia is learning on the fly. Redick is the only starter who’s been to the postseason before this year. Its best two players, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, haven’t even logged 100 regular-season games yet.

For coach Brett Brown, who spent more than a decade with the Spurs, the leadup to the playoffs and this series have been full of lessons for his young team. He believes the 76ers are still trying to get accustomed to playoff basketball, particularly the way defenses typically play much more attentively, and still haven’t peaked.

“We have as much room for growth as anybody,” he said. “I look at that as a really exciting opportunity.

“You sort of go through college and then here we are in grad school, if you will, and we have a chance to learn a lot more. And we need to.”

Brown used the Game 4 win as an illustration for his players to see the Heat knocked them out of rhythm at both ends of floor in the first three quarters.

At that point, the Sixers had committed 24 turnovers on offense and allowed Miami to shoot 46.5 percent. They took control like a veteran team, however, with a 27-19 fourth quarter in which they turned the ball over just three times and held the Heat to 8-for-23 shooting.

Doing something like that on the road is a key breakthrough for a team that aspires to be a perennial contender. Their next graduation requirement is fighting off the desperation they’ll encounter from the Heat in an elimination game.

Redick’s rhetoric about delivering “a crushing blow” isn’t exactly how Brown wants his team thinking.

“You can make it too hard,” Brown said. “Everybody’s trying to break somebody’s spirit. It’s always the same thing.

“It happens on the other side of it. I know (Erik Spoelstra) will be in his locker room saying, ‘All we gotta do is win a game and come home.’ They’re gonna live in a really isolated, zoomed-in world of, ‘Let’s just win a game. We won a game last time we were here. Just come home and figure it out.’”

[In a series that Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid have thrived, Heat pleased with progress from their own young duo]

[Heat must finish vs. Sixers, or season will be finished]

[Was Heat’s Game 4 loss Dwyane Wade’s final game in Miami? Wade: ‘I don’t want to answer that right now’]

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