It seemed unthinkable, unlikely, practically impossible. But yes, the Sixers still have pride left. Doc Rivers’ team plays defense and pride and gets through the third game of the tie against the Heat. It was the day of Danny Green, of the collective game, of the demonstration that this team is more than just the crumbs of a (for the moment) frustrated transfer, that of James Harden, and that it can stand up to its rivals, who are still favorites and have a chance to go 3-1 to Florida if they win the next game. But that’s another story to come. in the now, Joel Embiid has returned from the dead, mask in hand, filling the hearts of Philadelphia fans with optimism., a city that knows and understands basketball. And with their messiah, the squad believed, the shots fell in and the response to the opening two rounds in Miami was fierce and forceful.
Embiid went to 7 points and 4 rebounds in a first quarter that was a clear statement of intent. In fact, as soon as the Sixers took a real initiative, they didn’t take the lead again. They left Miami to 17 points in each of the two opening periods, withstood the Heat’s attempt at rebellion in the third quarter, did not shrink from the arrival of the pressure (68-65 with 12 minutes to go) and dug in behind, while they became resolute in front. Erik Spoelstra did not find solutions and the Heat only scored 14 points in the final period, handcuffed by the constant help of a squad in which even James Harden wanted to defend. And from indolence, he moved on to recovered balls, the desire to run, solvency, effectiveness and the incessant fight for each rebound as if it were the last.
The Sixers held the Heat to 35% shooting from the field and this time they didn’t allow free 3-pointers. The difficulty in finding easy shots caused a blur in the triple (7 of 30) that neither the Tyler Herro microwave (14 points in 15 shots, with 2 of 7 in triples) he was able to solve. He was the only one to go over ten points along with Jimmy Butler, a cyclone that stood firm in his attacks and finished with 33 points (12 of 22 shooting) and 9 rebounds, but only in the firmament, in which he was a star that shone too alone. Max Strus abused the triple (3 of 11), Bam Adebayo, horrible, was scared by what was in front of him (2 of 9 in shots and just 3 rebounds in 33 minutes) and the Heat added 11 turnovers and barely converted 6 points in transition. Without the ability or opportunity to run, erratic in all aspects, missing the few released shots they had and losing the balls that were loose in any type of fight. Spoelstra will adjust for the next game, that’s for sure.
The local team was the one that took the cake. Embiid’s theoretical minute restriction was a mirage and the center went to 36 minutes, with 18 points, 11 rebounds, an extraordinary 2+1 (and falling) in the final period and with an influence on the game that goes beyond numbers. James Harden, without great fanfare, reached 17 + 8 + 6 and continued to be erratic in shooting (1 of 7 in triples) but contributed in other facets. Tobias Harris, who ended up being sent off for fouling, did a lot of dirty work (9 points on 4-for-13 shooting, but 10 rebounds and 8 assists) and Tyrese Maxey had 21 points and 6 assists, in addition to saving a ball that he was lost passing backwards on a play that lifted the Wells Fargo Center stands. The key, yes, was Danny Green: from 1 of 9 in triples in the second game he went to 7 of 9 that reminded the player who emerged in his day in the Spurs. A voracious defender who scores open shots. The Sixers shot better from three (48.5%) than from two (47.8%), were cohesive and recovered a masked Embiid. And with it, hope. 2-1 and dream. They have some reason. From there, we will see.