Philadelphia 76ers need to make adjustments before Game 3

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Now heading to Miami for game three, the Philadelphia 76ers have to counter the adjustments made by the Heat before the team’s Thursday night tip-off.

Regardless of the hype, the Philadelphia 76ers were never going to defeat the Miami Heat in four games.

Sure, ripping off 16 straight wins to close out the 2017-2018 NBA season was nice, and topping it off with a 130-103 victory in Game 1 of NBA playoffs had a lot of people buzzing about the fresh princes of the Eastern Conference, but for a team as young as the 76ers, with an average age of 25, it was never going to be that easy.

Experience is earned after all.

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After literally running the Heat into the ground in Game 1, two-time NBA Champion coach Erik Spoelstra wasn’t going to just sit back and let his team get embarrassed on national television. No, after watching the Sixers shower the Heat with 18 made threes while running one of the fastest offenses in the entire league, Spoelstra brought a new philosophy to game two that seemingly took Brett Brown and company completely by surprise.

Since it would be simply unrealistic to assume that the much less athletic Heat would be able to defeat the 76ers in a glorified track meet, Spoelstra’s squad decided to instead double down on the physicality, and bully the Joel Embiid-less Sixers in the paint.

This philosophy change, when coupled with the 76ers sub-20 three-point percentage, proved to be a fatal combination.

And if the 76ers are going to go retake the lead in this series, they’ll need to learn from their mistakes in game two.

When a team lives by the three, as the Sixers have so far this postseason, they will also die by the three when it’s not falling, and this adage range true in Game 2, as the team only made seven of their 36 shots from behind the arch at the Wells Fargo Center.  After finding success in the second half of game one with Ersan Ilyasova manning the five-spot, the team decided to continue to go with what was working and opted to keep the Turkish center in the paint once more, but while this move came as a surprise in game one, Spoelstra was ready for it in Game 2, and quickly exposed the team’s defensive inefficiency in the paint with a focus on driving at the basket with 12 time All-Star Dwayne Wade.

Wade finished out the game as the top scorer on either team, scoring 28 points on only 16 shots, and while some will blame Kevin Hart for this vintage performance, his lethal mid-range game ultimately sealed the 76er fate.

With Robert Covington a bit too slow to stay with Wade when he drove at the basket and Ilyasova far from a defensive anchor in the paint, Wade was able to victimize the 76ers inside the arc while making almost 70 percent of his two-point shots.

If the 76ers are going to steal some games in Miami and bring the series back to South Philly with the lead, this can’t be allowed to happen again.

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No, after going into Game 2 with all of the blissfully ignorant confidence of any much-hyped first-time playoff team, Coach Brown and company need to reevaluate what has and hasn’t worked going into game three and bring a new game plan down to South Beach in time for Thursday night’s game.

While the 76ers playoff experience is shoddy at best, the team did enter the series with five players, Marco Belinelli, J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Jerryd Bayless, and Ilyasova, who’ve combined for 276 postseason appearances over their careers and these players have for the most part shined thus far in the series.

Their experience will be vital in helping the team’s younger players remain confident and focused even if a game is starting to get out of hand.

Sure, the 76ers lack the collective experience of Wade and the Heat, but there’s no doubt as to which team has more raw talent, especially when Embiid finally returns to the court. While it may be hard to learn on the fly, if Coach Brown and the fresh-faced Sixers are going to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs, their going to need to incorporate some fresh ideas into their game three game plan and keep Spoelstra guessing on South Beach.

Next: Philadelphia 76ers can still turn series back around against Miami Heat

To paraphrase an old saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t making it out of the first round of the NBA playoffs”. Let’s hope the team can take those words to heart.