MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 02: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts against the Miami Heat during the first half in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at FTX Arena on May 02, 2022 in Miami, Florida.

By Dylan MacKinnon

Doc Rivers has a ton of faith in DeAndre Jordan. He chose to start him in this game. And chose to play him for almost the entire second half. And that was a big reason they lost this game. It is certainly not only Jordan’s fault. Other players played poorly too, and the 3pt shooters were freezing cold. But the game seemed to have a different energy when Jordan was not on the floor. As much as not having Joel Embiid clearly hurt them, the player they did have in his place made it so much worse. It didn’t have to be like that. But the stubbornness of Doc Rivers to try anything but DeAndre Jordan once Reed got into foul trouble sunk them.

And do not say “well he had to play Jordan, Reed was in foul trouble.” There were options at the 5 besides Jordan or Reed. The best option appeared to be no center. The Sixers played some of their best ball when they went small. But Rivers wouldn’t go back to it until the game was already way out of hand. He wouldn’t even try extended minutes with Milsap or Bassey at 3. He let an immobile DeAndre Jordan stay in the game for far too long.

The game started ugly. With Deandre Jordan at center, the Heat got out to an 18-6 lead and shot 8-11. Bam Adebayo was 3-3 in 4 minutes being guarded by Jordan. The Heat were simply having their way inside. But then Paul Reed came in. And while he was a bit too aggressive, committing 3 fouls in 9 minutes, his presence turned the game around. They got the lead all the way down to 5 not long after he subbed in. He had 4pts, a block, a steal, 5rebs, and 3asts in those 9 minutes. More importantly, he played good D and seemed to inject some energy into the Sixers.

But it was Harris who really turned the game around in the second quarter. He scored 10 in the quarter. But better than that, he was smothering the Heat on D. He and Reed dragged the Sixers from down 14, to up 1 by the end of the half. They were +15 in the first half when neither Jordan nor Milsap was on the floor.

Things got ugly in the 3rd quarter again though. Doc put Jordan back out there to start the half. The Heat outscored them 30-21. Jordan played almost the whole quarter. But while he certainly wasn’t helpful, you can’t even blame just him. They stopped getting penetration and started jacking up 3s. The problem is they were horrible from deep. At the end of the third, they were shooting an ugly 4-25 from 3pt range. And despite the success the Sixers had going small ball in the first, they never went back to that in the 3rd quarter.

And then things really fell apart in the 4th. With Reed in foul trouble, Doc kept running Jordan out there. The Heat blew the game wide open and took a 19pt lead 5 minutes into the frame. It also took that long for Doc Rivers to finally try small ball again. But by then it was too late. The Heat ran away with this game. With 4 minutes left both teams emptied their benches.

Was the game lost solely because of Doc playing DeAndre Jordan? No. It’s tough to win any game where you shoot 6-34 from 3. Did it put the Sixers are a serious disadvantage? Yes. Doc wanted to start Jordan. It did not work. He rightfully kept him out for most of the first half. But then he went back to him despite it being very clear they were better when he was out. And he stuck by him. Even with Reed in foul trouble, there were better options than Jordan at the 5.

The Heat had 10 more rebounds and 6 more offensive rebounds. The size of Jordan was not helping them. The offense, and even the defense, looked better when playing small ball. But again, that was something Doc did not seem interested in playing in the second half. In the end, they lost 106-92. In the second half, they were outscored by 18pts. They will try to redeem themselves Wednesday night during game 2.