NBA Playoffs 2011: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat, Looking Ahead to Game 2
But for those who watched the 97-89 Heat victory over the Sixers, the game was incredibly unpredictable and contained a number of surprising stretches that resulted in an entertaining and competitive game, right up until the end.
So with Game 1 in the books and Game 2 set for Monday night, let's take a look at some lessons the 76ers learned in the opener and what adjustments the Sixers need to make if they hope to steal Game 2 in Miami.
Lesson 1: It will take more than a good start to bring home a victory.
It was the ideal situation for any road underdog who is looking to come into a series and pull off an upset. The 76ers came out with more energy and effort and utilized excellent ball movement to gain a 31-19 lead over the Heat at the end of the first quarter.
It was an impressive display of basketball for a team that had struggled down the stretch of the regular season, as Philadelphia came out shooting 61 percent from the field in the first quarter.
Also, on the defensive side of the ball, the Sixers were doing an excellent job of helping out on the high pick and rolls that the Heat were running with Dwyane Wade. The big men were stepping out and forcing Wade to dish the ball off to his teammates, forcing them to have to make plays.
Lisa Salters, the sideline reporter for ABC, interviewed Doug Collins between quarters and asked him what he liked about his teams performance, to which he replied, "We've been good with our defensive rotations, keeping them on the perimeter and forcing them to take long twos. We've just gotta keep them off of the free-throw line and get out and run when we're in transition."
As it turns out Coach Collins was quite the prognosticator, because as the game progressed the 76ers found themselves trailing, in large part because the Heat went to the free-throw line 39 times while the Sixers only went 15 times.
Let me stress that the Heat should get to the line more often due to their aggressive style of play, but shooting two-and-a-half times more free throws than the Sixers does seem a bit outrageous.
After the game when asked about the discrepancy between the two teams' free-throw attempts, Collins said, "I could talk about that, but then my grandkids would lose their college fund, so I have to dance around that."
Lesson 2: There are ways to beat the zone defense.
At the start of the second quarter, Erik Spoelstra decided to switch to a 2-3 zone defense and Philadelphia ended up looking more confused than Elmer Fudd when Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are battling over which hunting season it is.
The 76ers proceeded to go six straight possessions without a basket and the Heat scored 10 straight points to close the gap. It didn't help that the Sixers ran out a lineup of Lou Williams, Evan Turner, Andres Nocioni, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes.
I realize you have to rest your starters at some point, but sitting Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand all at the same time leaves your offense without three of its best scorers.
While I'm not a coach, I do know that the best way to beat a 2-3 zone defense is to have the ball handler get to the middle of the floor and when the defenders collapse, you should have open passing lanes for a teammate to cut to the basket or spot up for a three.
This didn't happen with the Sixers and ultimately it was one of the biggest reasons that they lost the game. Towards the end of the game they were successful with Iguodala driving the lanes and dishing out to Holiday for three, but it was too little, too late.
Adjustments to be made
First and foremost, the 76ers need to get something offensively out of Andre Iguodala. He was a paltry 2-of-7 from the floor for just four points, and he didn't take a single free throw the entire game. Iguodala needs to be a lot more aggressive in attacking the rim and getting to the line to help his offensive production. Sure the eight rebounds and nine assists are nice, but this team needs him to score too if they hope to win.
Will the 76ers beat the Heat in Game 2?
Another thing that the 76ers should definitely consider is giving Thaddeus Young as much playing time as possible. Young came off the bench in Game 1, playing a total of 28 minutes and scoring 20 points while also bringing down 11 rebounds. Of those 11 rebounds, eight of them were offensive boards that created easy second chance points.
In my preview of this series, I called for Thad to get more playing time to help on the defensive end. I thought he could start at small forward and defend LeBron while Iguodala started at shooting guard to cover Wade.
After watching Saturday's game, I think the Sixers are probably better off going small and starting Young at power forward and moving Brand to the center position. For one thing, they will need Jodie Meeks' three-point abilities on the offensive end to stretch the Heat's defense. And Miami really doesn't have the big men to offensively take advantage of the Sixers going small.
In the end, even though the outcome might not have been what the Philadelphia 76ers were hoping for, they did have some success against the Heat. So, if they can take what worked in Game 1 and fix some of what didn't, the Sixers just might be able to go back home to Philly with the series split at 1-1.
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