By Dylan MacKinnon
Tobias Harris was impressive in Game 1. He had 27pts and made the Heat feel his presence on defense. The problem is no one else was. Harden took only 13 shots and turned it over 5 times. Maxey did score 19 and made some impressive shots inside. But he also shot 1-6 from outside. Danny Green and Georges Niang shot a combined 1-12 from 3pt range. The bench scored just 8pts, not counting the 13 they scored in garbage time once both teams sent in the reserves. Paul Reed was impressive when on the floor, but took himself out of the game by committing too many fouls. And then DeAndre Jordan was a statue and actively hurt the Sixers anytime he was on the floor. If the Sixers are going to win Game 2, someone besides Harris needs to step up.
Who will that be? That is unclear. Ideally, Harden will be more aggressive on offense. As far as being a facilitator goes, his numbers in game 1 were hurt by the Sixers simply being incapable of hitting a 3. If the Sixers shoot like they usually do, he may have been around double-digit assists. But even with that said, they need him to be the Harden we all saw in game 6 vs the Raptors. That may be hard without Embiid to set high screens for him, but they brought him in part to be able to make up for nights when Embiid was not available.
And they simply need Reed to stay on the court in game 2. The Sixers outplayed the Heat whenever he was. It was like the Sixers were a different team with him at center instead of Jordan. Not just because he played well, but because Jordan was that bad. The Heat shot over 70% with Jordan on the floor. And he was not even rebounding, grabbing just two boards in 17 minutes. He was unplayable, and if he is on the court the Sixers are going to lose those minutes. The best way to keep him off the floor is to keep Reed on it.
With that said, they also need Doc Rivers to step up. He has to realize Jordan cannot see the floor. The Sixers have 4 centers besides Joel Embiid. Reed, Jordan, Paul Millsap, and Charles Bassey. Jordan is the worst option there. Paul Millsap is older too, but he did play fairly well earlier in the year vs the Heat guarding Bam. He can still move a bit on the floor. And he can still jump. It may not work, but we know Jordan can’t work, so it is worth trying.
And if that doesn’t work, it is also worth just trying small ball. It worked well in a small sample size in Game 1. A smaller player that can be fast enough to at least get in Bam Adebayo’s way. Jordan was often just caught standing around because Bam and the rest of the Heat players were too quick for him. They need to try something else. Even with Jordan on the floor, they were getting outrebounded, His size
But mostly, their shooters just need to hit their shots. They shot 17.6% as a team Monday night from deep. You can’t win like that even with Joel Embiid on the floor. if they shoot just 30% from deep, which would still be terrible, they would have had 12 more pts. And if they shoot their average in these playoffs, which is 37%, they would have 18 more pts. They lost by 14pts. That’s not to say they win if they hit those 3s, because if the game was closer the starters would have stayed in, and maybe the Heat score more too. It is just to show that if they can hit 3s, it could be kept much closer.
The point is, if they want to win game 2, it will take more than Tobias Harris. Harden needs to be more aggressive, the shooters have to hit their shots, and Reed needs to find a way to stop picking up so many fouls. Short of that, the Sixers could find themselves in a 0-2 hole heading back to Philly.
The Heat will again be without Kyle Lowry. Game 2 tips tonight at 7:30 pm. Our coverage begins tonight at 6 with Devon Givens. Tom McGinnis is on the call.