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 … Continue reading “Why did the Heat’s season end in the first round of the playoffs? A look at the reasons”

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

Has Dwyane Wade reached the end? (Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — If this is it for Dwyane Wade, it’s a quiet exit for the biggest star in Heat history.

He doesn’t seem like he’d have a problem with that.

Wade came back to the Heat unassumingly two months ago and maintained that approach through the end, which came in a 104-91 loss to the 76ers to close out their first-round playoff series in five games. Philadelphia goes on with hopes of challenging for the Eastern Conference title, and Wade heads back to South Florida to contemplate his future.

“Y’all know I’ve given it thought,” he said when asked if he’s retiring.

Then he looked around the media room at Wells Fargo Center and smiled.

“This is Philly and I love Philly, but there ain’t gonna be no breaking news here,” he said. “I appreciate y’all’s concern, but we’ll worry about that later. I ain’t gonna break nothing here.”

That’ll probably wait at least a couple of months. Wade hasn’t dwelled on it much lately. His mind has been engrossed in trying to will the Heat out of a 3-1 hole.

He was out there when Miami made its fiercest effort to get back into the game after falling behind 76-59 with a little under three minutes left in the third quarter.

The Heat pushed back with a strong start to the fourth quarter and pulled within eight on a classic drive by Wade off a give-and-go with Tyler Johnson. He didn’t look 36 when he lifted off and powered through heavy contact at the rim for a reverse layup.

“I wanted to have those moments throughout this playoff series,” he said. “I wanted to have a moment tonight. My body wasn’t — my wrist and my elbow wasn’t aligning with me. But I had a couple of them that made me feel good about the work put in this summer. I worked my tail off. That’s what it’s all about.”

Wade had 11 points off the bench in Game 5. (Getty Images)

Wade played 31 minutes, his third-most extended action this year, and finished with off the bench and finished 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting, five assists and five rebounds. The Heat outscored Philadelphia by seven points when he was on the floor.

This is how Wade seemed to want it from the time he returned to Miami in a February trade that offered him and the franchise a chance to patch up the messy split that took place two years ago.

He enjoyed the reunion, but he underplayed it.

He didn’t come back to be a star, and he made that clear in a team meeting shortly after his arrival. He told his teammates he was grateful for how they welcomed him and talked about doing his best to fit in. They stared back bewilderedly at the franchise’s all-time icon. Wasn’t this his team all along?

“He has that kind of awareness and humility,” said Erik Spoelstra, who feared that he’d get too emotional if he started thinking about this being Wade’s final game. “He didn’t want to step in and step on somebody else’s role. He just wanted to fit in and be one of the guys.

“I’ve coached him as a leading scorer in the league (and) as a champion in this league where he had to take a secondary role to the best player in the league. I’ve coached him now in this role. None of us would have ever imagined Dwyane Wade would be coming off the bench. But he’s handled all of these roles with incredible class and dignity.”

Spoelstra joked that Wade could play off his bench forever if he wants. Or maybe he wasn’t joking.

Wade gave Miami 12 points per game on 40.9 percent shooting in some well-rounded minutes during the regular season and upped it to 16.6 on 44.3 percent in the playoffs. The Heat offense needed a spark, and picking up Wade wasn’t merely a sentimental move.

“He knew what the deal was,” Spoelstra said. “We were already kind of set with our rotation.

“It was one of the first things he said: ‘I don’t want to disrupt anything. I’ll come off the bench. I’ll play with the second unit and we’ll make this work. Don’t worry about me.’ That’s awesome. There’s probably not a lot of Hall of Fame players who still have his ability that would still be willing to do that.”

Wade seems to have effectively compartmentalized the retirement speculation — internal and external — over the past week or so. He’s always said he doesn’t want a sendoff like the one Kobe Bryant enjoyed two years ago and he’s treated the last few days like any others.

Maybe it’s because he’s coming back. Maybe that’s just his personality.

“When I say I’ve gotta make a decision, that’s in the summer,” Wade said. “When you’re in the fight, when you’re in the battle, you focus on that. You focus on what you need to do. When you let your mind go, it’s over with already.”

He went through Tuesday morning’s shootaround at the Temple University practice facility like usual, and gave a light chuckle when it was pointed out afterward that no one asked him if he was retiring this time.

A crowd of students waited for him as the team walked through the lobby out to its buses parked on Broad Street. He stopped a few times on his way out for some selfies before being ushered him to the door, knowing there was no way he could fill every request.

This has been the norm for Wade after every road shootaround for years, even after the Big Three era. There’s little doubt that if he wanted a victory lap next season, the fans would gladly give it to him. The elite class of players who merit that level of celebration is small, and he’s clearly a member.

Embiid and Wade had a brief heart-to-heart after the game. (Getty Images)

It’s telling that his fellow players don’t seem to treat him much differently from the fans.

Wade and the Heat were sent home at the hands of a team whose two brightest stars are just beginning their career. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are 24 and 21 years old, respectively, and both were in grade school when Wade burst into the NBA in 2003.

They’re at the center of a team that will contend in the East now and for years to come. It’s logical for anyone, including their players, to think that based on what they’ve done this season.

Wade’s advice, as someone who’s won three titles and been on a lottery team, was not to assume anything. There was a stoppage with 1.8 seconds left, and he grabbed Simmons for a quick word, then Embiid wrapped him up in a hug after the buzzer.

“He just told me to keep working and that I had a bright future,” Embiid said. “I had to pay my respect because I wasn’t sure if this was his last year. I wanted to thank him for what he’s done for the game. He’s done an amazing job. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer.”

Embiid knows. They all know.

Wade won’t need a farewell tour for validation. He can walk away just like this, and they won’t forget.

[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’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

2018 NBA playoffs: Heat haven’t seen the best of 76ers C Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid has made an impact already, but he’s still not himself. (Getty Images)

CAMDEN, N.J. — 76ers center Joel Embiid has had plenty working against him as he tries to settle into this first-round playoff series against the Heat, and he’s only halfway toward playing like his usual all-star self.

As if his first foray into the postseason isn’t enough of an awakening, he’s been simultaneously trying to regain his rhythm after being out almost three weeks and adjusting to a cumbersome protective mask that covers pretty much everything but his mouth.

The thought that Embiid could snap back into his normal self at any moment is concerning for a Miami team that trails 3-1 heading into Tuesday’s Game 5 at Wells Fargo Center.

He’s played two games, and while his defense was impressive, the Heat know they haven’t seen the best of him offensively yet. He’s averaged 18.5 points, 2.5 assists and 5.5 turnovers while shooting 31.8 percent.

“The difference of Joel Embiid offensively versus Joel Embiid defensively is night and day,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said today. “He is unbelievable at the rim (defensively). That’s energy and activity, just a committed physical, aggressive player. Those qualities don’t equal a poised offensive player. It’s not his fault.”

“Playing basketball, regaining his core balance and all those things, that will happen over time.”

He was still a factor in his first two games with totals of 19 rebounds and eight blocked shots. The Heat were repeatedly frustrated by his defense in Game 4 and have shot 3 for 15 against him within 6′ of the basket since he entered the series.

Embiid and the 76ers haven’t been harping on the mask as an excuse, but it’s undeniably hampering his peripheral vision. Brown believes it was a big factor in him committing eight turnovers Saturday. Teammates Markelle Fultz and Amir Johnson tried out the mask after today’s practice and quickly saw how restrictive it is.

Embiid, who has to wear it because he broke an orbital bone during a game in late March, is doing his best to acclimate and not allow it to become a mental issue in which he blames every shortfall on it.

“That can’t be an excuse,” he said. “I have to get used to it. That’s the only way I can be on the court, so I’ve just gotta do it. I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it. Some days it’s gonna work out well, some other days not.”

The 30 minutes he logged in Game 3 was his most extensive playing time since March 19, and he didn’t respond physically the way he’d hoped. That likely affected him Saturday, and it helps that the teams have an extra day off before the series resumes in Philadelphia.

“My body was hurting all over the place,” Embiid said. “Going into (Game 4), it was really bad. But it’s basketball. I’m the type of guy where it doesn’t matter how I’m feeling. If you put me on the basketball court I just forget everything. You’ve just gotta do it.”

In the regular season, his first full one since Philadelphia drafted him third overall in 2014, he showed exceptional skill for a player who stands skilled player he is for someone who’s 7-foot, 260 pounds. He’s a remarkable matchup nightmare for almost every team.

Embiid averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocks while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 30.8 on 3-pointers. That’s the potential all-around impact he can have, whether it be against Miami or perhaps later in the playoffs, and the 76ers will be much more fearsome once he gets back to it.

“It’s part of the complete belief, when I look at our team versus other teams, that I think we can continue to improve,” Brown said. “I really see tremendous improvement possibilities in general with our team, and certainly by Joel playing more basketball.”

[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’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

2018 NBA playoffs: 76ers know what to expect from Miami Heat in Game 5

Ben Simmons and the 76ers are ready for a fight in Game 5, and they’re not going to change their style. (Getty Images)

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.”

[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’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Miami Heat must finish vs. 76ers, or season will be finished

Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat attempts to drive to the basket as he is surrounded by Dario Saric and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers in the fourth quarter during Game 4 of the opening round of the playoffs at American Airlines Arena on Saturday in Miami. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade’s confidence in himself to rally his team, whether it be in a game or a playoff series, will always be absolute.

*D’Angelo: The Process will win series

But after the Heat’s frustrating 106-102 loss to the 76ers on Saturday — their second straight at home — dropped them into a 3-1 series hole, Wade didn’t mince words when asked if his veteran guile still gives the Heat an advantage over the upstart squad from Philadelphia.

“I’d rather be in their position, I’ll tell you that, figuring out how to close out 3-1,” Wade said after his 25-point performance nearly lifted the Heat back to victory after they let a double-digit, late-third-quarter lead slip away. “From our standpoint it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be one of the hardest things we’ve tried to accomplish as a team to try to bring it back here to Miami, and we gotta understand that.

“We gotta go in and put our hard hats on and go after it. We can’t worry about them. They’re in a good position. We’re the ones trying to come from behind. So we’ll see what happens Tuesday.”

The Heat, despite coming from 3-1 down to win a playoff series only once in franchise history, are not finished in this first-round, Eastern Conference series. Simple math proves that.

But they will be finished after Tuesday night’s Game 5 back in Philly if they don’t find a way to finish.

Like finishing at the basket. Miami in Game 3 was 25-for-46 on shots at the rim, missing layups and short jumpers, many on shots intimidated by Philadelphia’s 7-foot, 260-pound center Joel Embiid, who officially was credited with five blocks and whose rim protection “won us the game,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said.

Like finishing at the free-throw line. Coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t mask his feelings after Saturday’s loss. The Heat let one get away, partly by missing nearly half of their foul shots, going 13-for-25 from the line.

Like finishing defensive possessions. Miami has been crushed on the glass in the series (and was outrebounded 57-43 in Game 4), but the 76ers have done particular damage with offensive rebounds at crucial times to score on putbacks or by kicking them out for 3-pointers.

But, mostly, the Heat have to get better at finishing games — or their season will be finished after one more.

For the third straight contest the Heat allowed Philadelphia to go on a scoring blitz in the fourth quarter. In Game 3, the 76ers turned a two-point game into a cruise by outscoring Miami 32-14 in the final 12 minutes. Had Wade’s heroics not saved the Heat after their 16-point lead was cut to 2 in the fourth quarter of Game 2, the series would already be over.

On Saturday, Miami led 81-71 with 3:09 to play in the third quarter. From there, the 76ers went on a 21-4 run, bolstered by missed shots close to the basket, blown defensive assignments and poor rebounding by Miami. Wade scored seven straight points as Miami cut a seven-point deficit to one in the closing seconds, but he also missed a crucial free throw in the final seconds. Miami also let 76ers rookie guard Ben Simmons barrel down the lane uncontested for a two-handed dunk and on Philadelphia’s next possession left J.J. Redick, one of the NBA’s best shooters, all alone for an easy jumper.

“It was one of those moments where, for me, I just wanted us to get a stop or two,” Wade said. “I felt like I could win us one at home. We couldn’t get it. We made some mistakes down in the end. They made us pay. … Whether it’s getting offensive rebounds or miscommunications, we had to do a better job.”

The series has been physical, fast, fun and highly competitive. Neither team is acting like it’s a 3-1 series.

“We are going to Philadelphia looking forward to playing for an amazing home-court advantage,” said Brown, who said his team probably had “no right winning” Saturday’s game after how sloppily it played the first three quarters and finishing with 27 turnovers. “We are going to come in, bunker down and try to get better. We sure hope that equals a win.”

His young, talented point guard echoed the sentiment. “We have to finish it,” Simmons said. “We have to be locked in for that game coming up.”

Spoelstra knows his team has to finish or be finished.

“We all feel that we’re this close, and that’s what makes this game tough,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve had a tough time finishing games against Philadelphia, and that’s been the issue.”

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. Continue reading “Five takeaways: Sixers rally for 106-102 win over Heat to take 3-1 lead in series”

Behind the numbers: Should Heat’s Dwyane Wade get more playing time in playoff series vs. Sixers?

Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat shoots the ball against Dario Saric #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers in the fourth quarter during Game Two of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoff at Wells Fargo Center on April 16, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Heat defeated the 76ers 113-103. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

MIAMI — The Heat will look to even their first-round playoff series against the Sixers in Saturday’s Game 4 at 2:30 p.m. Philadelphia enters with a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Here are five things to know entering Game 4 (we know three games is a small sample size) … Continue reading “Behind the numbers: Should Heat’s Dwyane Wade get more playing time in playoff series vs. Sixers?”

Heat’s Justise Winslow fined $15,000 for stepping on Joel Embiid’s mask

Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow (20) attempts a 3-point basket as Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (21) defends during the first half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, April 19, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — Heat forward Justise Winslow has been fined $15,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct for intentionally stepping on and attempting to damage the face mask of Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, the NBA announced Friday night.

The incident occurred with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter of the Heat’s 128-108 loss to the Sixers on Thursday in Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Embiid was wearing the mask to protect his fractured orbital bone, which forced him to miss Philadelphia’s previous 10 games.

When asked about his run-in with the mask, Winslow said following Thursday’s game: “[Embiid] kept throwing [the mask] on the ground. So I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what. But I was talking to JoJo. We were smack talking, trash talking, going back and fourth. But no love loss.”

Embiid didn’t seem too bothered by the incident because he has more masks in reserve.

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands, but little does he know, I have about 50 of them,” Embiid said after Game 3. “So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of this series. I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.”

Embiid finished Game 3 with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in his playoff debut. The Sixers lead the first-round series 2-1, with Game 4 set for Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

[Heat know getting Hassan Whiteside back on track is ‘a game-changer.’ But is it possible against Sixers defense?]

[Dwyane Wade on physical nature of Heat-Sixers series: ‘It’s the playoffs, baby, let it go’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Five takeaways: Sixers take home-court advantage right back, defeat Heat 128-108 in Game 3

Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons (25) goes up for a basket as Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside (21) defends during the first half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, April 19, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — The Heat stole home-court advantage in Game 2. But it didn’t take the Sixers long to snatch it back.

The Sixers survived a bruising 48 minutes to defeat the Heat 128-108 in Game 3 on Thursday to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series. The game included 56 personal fouls and six technical fouls, as the teams played a physical brand of basketball.

Despite the lopsided score, it was a back-and-forth game most of the way that included 17 lead changes and 13 ties. But Philadelphia took control in the fourth quarter, outscoring Miami 32-14 in the final period to turn a two-point lead at the start of the quarter into a 20-point win.

“We went through a little bit of a drought and they just kept on scoring either via 3-pointer or foul trouble or getting to the free-throw line,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s the thing. It was right there. But you have to be able to complete it for 48 minutes. That’s what’s going to be required against this team. They went on a big run and it just got away from us.”

Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid was dominant in his playoff debut, finishing with a team-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists. Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric scored 21 each.

Miami’s defense didn’t bother Philadelphia much in this game. The Sixers shot 50.6 percent from the field and made 18-of-34 threes.

The Heat were led by point guard Goran Dragic, who recorded 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting. But starting center Hassan Whiteside was quiet again with five points and two rebounds in 13 minutes.

“He might not necessarily put up the numbers, but its part of my job — to figure it out and figure out how he can get to his strengths and be an impact player for us,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside. “It starts with the defense, the rebounding. It’s a lot of responsibilities for us offensively. I’ll spend some time working that out in the next day in a half.”

The Heat will now try to bounce back and even the series, 2-2, in Saturday’s Game 5 at 2:30 p.m.

“It’s going to be hard to play the way we need to play to win the series,” said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who finished with eight points on 2-of-7 shooting. “But this team you got to understand that you go through these moments. You lose a game like today and you understand you don’t like this feeling and you like the feeling you had in Game 2. You got to work harder to get to that. So we’ll see. We’ll come in and we’ll learn from it.”

Here are our five takeaways …

The return of Joel Embiid: The Sixers got their All-Star center back Thursday and he made a major impact. Embiid finished with a team-high 23 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists in his return. His presence was especially felt on the defensive end, as Miami shot just 6-of-18 at the rim in Game 3. Embiid had missed the previous 10 games (final eight of the regular season and first two of the playoffs) to recover from surgery to repair an orbital bone fracture. Philadelphia posted a 9-1 record in his absence, with the only loss coming in Game 2 of the series. But it’s obvious the Sixers are a better team with Embiid on the court.

“Obviously, when the game speeds up, he can slow it down,” Spoelstra said. “He has a way of drawing fouls and its not just in the post. A lot of his fouls drawn are on the perimeter, shot fakes and drives. He knows to draw them. We have to do things with great technique, great discipline. We’re capable of it. And we expected him to be in the series at some point. So, that’s the challenge for us.”

Another quiet night for Hassan Whiteside: Even with Embiid back on the court, Whiteside continued his quiet series. Battling foul trouble for most of the night, Whiteside finished with five points and two rebounds in 13 minutes. He only attempted one shot in the game. This comes after the Heat’s $98 million center logged just 15 minutes in Game 2 and 12 minutes in Game 1. Whiteside is averaging 3.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in the playoff series.

“It’s just different, man,” Whiteside said of his underwhelming numbers this series. “I feel like our offense is a lot different. I’m not as involved in as many dribble hand-offs as I was and post-ups as I was in the regular season. That’s what coach wants. Coach wants me to just be in the corner and set picks. That’s what he wants. I’ve just got to trust it.”

This series is physical … very physical: Didn’t think this series could get more physical after the first two games? You were very wrong. The Heat and Sixers combined for 56 personal fouls and six technical fouls in Game 3. There were 72 free throws taken in the game — 35 for Miami and 37 for Philadelphia. The tension seemed to reach its peak when Wade and Sixers reserve guard Justin Anderson were called for “physical taunting foul” technicals after they were involved in a small skirmish near the basket with 10:26 remaining in the second quarter. Double technical fouls were also called on Miami’s James Johnson and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons for exchanging words with 4:22 remaining in the second quarter. There’s still at least two more games in this series. What happens next?

“It’s the playoffs, baby,” Wade said. “I wish the whistle didn’t blow as much as it did. We’re fine with it. Let it go, man. Nobody wants to get into fights. But there’s going to be some body on body. There’s going to be some man-on-man combat in this series and it’s the playoffs. This is why everybody is walking on eggshells in the regular season so they can get to the playoffs and be healthy.

“But this is what the fans love to see and this is what competitors love to play in. The physicality doesn’t matter. We want them to be physical and we’re going to be physical. It’s just about winning a ballgame and whatever you can do.”

The Heat need this Goran Dragic: The discussion after Game 1 was about how much the length of 6-foot-9 Sixers forward Robert Covington was bothering Heat point guard Goran Dragic. That’s because Dragic struggled in the first game of the series with an inefficient 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting. But Dragic has turned it around since then and turned in his best performance of the series so far in Game 3. He finished with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and eight assists on Thursday. The performance didn’t lead to a Heat win, but this is the Dragic the Heat will need moving forward.

The playoff version of Justise is entertaining: In Game 2, Justise Winslow opened eyes with his ultra-physical defense against Simmons. In Game 3, Winslow opened with his ability to be just about everywhere on the court. The 22-year-old provided a major lift off the bench with a season-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds and three assists. And Winslow’s physical and feisty play continued Thursday, and he even stepped on and broke Embiid’s protective goggles. But Winslow was held scoreless in the second half on 0-of-5 shooting. Still, it seems like Winslow is made for playoff basketball.

“It was amazing,” Winslow said of scoring 19 points in the first half. “I live for these moments, these big games, the big stage. But I was just trying to do whatever it took to win and we fell short. So three months, four months from now I’ll look back and it will be a great memory and great moment. But the bigger picture, we didn’t win tonight. I rather have the two-point [win] rather than the whatever ‘L.’ It’s tough, man. It’s tough when you’re playing that well and you still can’t pull it out. But it is what it is. We got to find a way.”

[Heat’s Dwyane Wade says he and actor Kevin Hart ‘are not friends right now. I don’t like him’]

[Heat’s Erik Spoelstra, Dwyane Wade shocked, saddened by death of Erin Popovich]

[Justise Winslow enjoying physical style of playoffs: ‘I can be the bad guy if that means winning’]

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Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid upgraded to probable for Game 3 vs. Heat

Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts from the bench after a missed foul shot by LeBron James in the final seconds of the game at the Wells Fargo Center on April 6, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Cavaliers 132-130. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

MIAMI — It looks like Joel Embiid’s playoff debut will come in Game 3.

After Sixers coach Brett Brown called Embiid doubtful before morning shootaround, the All-Star center was upgraded to probable just a few hours before Thursday night’s game against the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena. Embiid missed the final eight games of the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs after undergoing surgery to repair an orbital bone fracture. Continue reading “Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid upgraded to probable for Game 3 vs. Heat”