Playoff Breakdown: Miami Heat Annihilate & Eliminate Sixers, Back In The Eastern Conference Finals

Insightlast month5 min readJohn Jablonka

Before continuing to read this, please watch the first couple of seconds of this video here. That is my reaction to anyone that thought this series was over — there are a lot of people that did. The Miami Heat had a convincing win at home in Game 5, then followed that with another convincing win, this time on the road, to eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers.

Once Joel Embiid came back, this series was over… apparently. He changed the whole dynamic of the series. The 76ers were clearly the better team after tying the series with two wins at home.

Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.

Despite the 76ers being able to win two games in a row, there was never a time when I thought they were the better team. Prior to Game 6, the Heat had an advantage over the 76ers in almost every key stat — attempts and percentage at the rim, the paint, mid-range, fewer turnovers, more offensive rebounds, more 2nd-chance points, and I can go on and on. The only thing the 76ers had the Heat beat was 3-point shooting.

You can’t convince me that the series would have been over quicker had it not been for a shooting outlier from the 76ers. You can take this game as evidence. The Heat made seven threes and shot a poor percentage, just like the previous games. And yet this game wasn’t close either. That’s because the 76ers also weren’t shooting well.

Still, the Heat did what they had to do to close out the series.


Offensive Breakdown:

Another game that didn’t crack 100. This is the third time they weren’t able to do it — side note, their opponents didn’t crack 100 seven times so far.

Per Cleaning the Glass, they had a 112.5 offensive rating, which is below average. One key stat that stands out is their free throw rate, which was 9.2. From just looking at the box score, you honestly couldn’t tell what the Heat did on offense.

I never would have thought that Jimmy Butler would be second in 3s made in a playoff game. Yet again this was another Butler game. He finished with 32 points on 13-for-29 shooting, eight rebounds, and four assists. And there were many good actions that were run for him to get to his spots, but most came down to his ability to make tough shots. In other words, he was a hooper.

The pick-and-roll defense against Butler will most likely be drop and prevent him from getting to the rim. However, drop does open up that space around the mid-range, and Butler did punish to some extent. He was third in mid-range attempts this round, and shooting 36.7 percent.

All series long, I constantly discussed Tyler Herro and how he hasn’t adjusted to the aggressive defense he was facing. He looked better in this game. He managed to beat the defender when they showed, blitzed or trapped, and he made better decisions with the ball.

In previous games, this probably ends with Herro picking up the ball immediately or passing it off. He stays calm and relaxed, then attacks once he sees a gap in the defense. The defensive attention is still on him and he capitalizes on that by making the skip pass to the corner.

This was another case where he made the right decision when the blitz came. These were the looks that he either didn’t make at all or committed a turnover


Defensive Breakdown:

The Heat continued with the defensive adjustments they made late in Game 4 and it worked 100 percent. They carried on with less switching, PJ Tucker going under on screens against James Harden, and had Adebayo defend Joel Embiid more.

That was the story of the game. Adebayo’s defense on Embiid was something else.

People will bring up Adebayo’s offensive stats for this game or the series but will fail to realize that his defense is so, so impactful. Embiid scored eight points on 4-for-16 shooting with no fouls drawn in 40 partial possessions. The team also scored 28 points. But what was key is Embiid attempting four 3s.

Keeping Embiid out of the paint and not being able to get to his post-ups is a win for the defense in itself. In this game, Embiid had six paint touches and two post-ups. Adebayo simply didn’t let Embiid go through and get to his spots but instead settle for those jumpers that you live with.

That’s also just talking about when Embiid gets the ball. One of the best defenses is prevention. There were times when Embiid couldn’t get the ball because of Adebayo’s fronting. Did you know that he attempted three shots in the fourth?

Other players on the team couldn’t get going either. Harden was put in hell on many occasions, Butler on Maxey was key, and also over 10 percent of their 3s were contested.