J.J. Redick scored 28 points, and the 76ers took Game One of the Easter Conference Quarterfinals, defeating the Miami Heat 130-103.
After a late scratch saw Redick not dress in the final game of the regular season due to lower back stiffness, the veteran sharpshooter returned to the court for this Game One in a big way. Prior to missing the finale against the Milwaukee Bucks, Redick had led the 76ers in scoring five consecutive games, and he returned to form in the playoffs Saturday night, collecting a game-high 28 points on 8-13 shooting, including 4-6 from beyond the arc. The 28 points marked the fifth time in Redick’s career that he’s scored 20 or more in a playoff game.
While Redick was the beneficiary of a prolific shooting night, he did not pace the 76ers early in the contest. Instead, that role was reserved for Marco Bellinelli and Robert Covington, who connected on a pair of threes to open the 76ers’ offensive night. Covington picked up eight of his nine points in the first quarter, and Bellinelli added seven of his own. Bellinelli finished the night with a commanding 25 points off the bench on 9-17 shooting, including knocking down four of seven triples.
After the 76ers used a quick 6-0 run midway through the first quarter to jump out to a seven point lead, 19-12, the Miami Heat turned things around a found themselves controlling the pace. Over a three minute stretch, the Heat outscored the 76ers 18-3 to claim an eight point lead of their own, 30-22. During that stretch, Kelly Olynyk was solid for the Heat, knocking down a pair of threes and collecting nine points throughout the run. Olynyk finished the game with a team-high 26 points off the bench, grabbing a large majority of the big man minutes due to his elevated play. In contrast, starting center Hassan Whiteside managed just 12 minutes and two points in a near-invisible night.
The 76ers collected the final six points of the quarter, but still trailed after one quarter of play by six, 35-29.
Out of the timeout, the 76ers and Heat both struggled to find the bottom of the net, as the two teams managed just one bucket in the first two minutes of action. Shortly after, however, the 76ers would begin to find their stroke, going on a 12-1 run over a 2:19 stretch, claiming a three point lead, 41-38. Dario Saric was extremely effective over that run, grabbing five points and knocking down one of his four threes. Saric finished the evening with 20 points on 8-17 shooting.
Over that 76ers’ run, the Heat weren’t able to buy a bucket, failing to score from the field for over four minutes. After that 76ers’ spurt, and subsequent Heat falter, Philadelphia struggled to score, collecting just one field in almost four minutes of play as the quarter progressed under the four minute mark.
The two teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the half, and at the close of the first 24 minutes, the Heat maintained a lead, albeit a smaller one, but led going into halftime, nonetheless. Miami led Philadelphia at the break 60-56.
The expectation of the 76ers has routinely been defensive adjustments and success in the third quarter of play, and that is exactly what Philadelphia delivered coming out of the halftime break Saturday night. After Groan Dragic knocked down a long three to open up the quarter’s scoring and extend the lead to seven, the 76ers dominated the Heat on the defensive end. Miami failed to connect on a field goal for over six minutes of play in the third, scoring just five points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter.
During that Miami scoring drought, the 76ers grabbed the game and relentlessly took it to the Heat on the offensive side of ball. Philadelphia used a 15-0 run over three and a half minutes of play, taking a commanding eight point lead, 71-63, a lead they would never relinquish. That run was part of a larger 23-3 Philadelphia outburst that extended the 76ers’ lead to 13, 79-66. The 76ers used five three pointers to attack the Heat throughout the third quarter as part of a shooting barrage from deep throughout the game. The 18 threes made were the most in 76ers’ franchise history.
The stage was never too large for rookie Ben Simmons, who recorded four points and three assists in the third quarter on his way to his first career playoff double-double. Simmons scored 17 points and recorded 14 assists, falling just one rebound shy of a playoff triple-double.
The 76ers defeated the Heat by 16, 34-18, through the duration of the third quarter and took a 12 point lead, 90-78, into the final quarter of play.
The fourth quarter was another example of the three point supremacy that the 76ers’ showed over Miami throughout the game. J.J. Redick added 13 additional fourth quarter points, and the 76ers knocked down a sextet of long range shots in final 12 minutes of action on their way to a 40 point fourth quarter. The 76ers outscored the Heat 40-25 in the final 12 minutes of play, defeating Miami 130-103.
The win gives the 76ers a 1-0 series advantage over the Miami Heat. Teams that have home court advantage and win Game One of the series have nearly a 66 percent chance of winning the series. Game Two is set for Monday night from the Wells Fargo Center. Tip off is scheduled for 8 p.m., and you can hear all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli, producer and www.975thefanatic.com contributor