Miami snapped Philadelphia’s 17-game win streak in Game 2 of their opening-round series, 113-103. Here are three takeaways from a clash that saw all the Sixers’ 3-point pizazz go up in smoke:
Dwyane Wade Isn’t Retired Yet
There’s no point in having a beach bod in Cleveland. Wade looked his age on the Cavs earlier this season, but going back to Miami meant getting back in Miami shape (check out the bit about his declining body fat in Seerat Sohi’s SB Nation feature here). And in the Heat’s Game 2 clash against Philly, he looked like the best player on the court.
Wade turned back the clock and staved off the knee decay with a Game 2–high of 28 points in just 26 minutes. Ten years ago, Wade’s game was all hyperathletic drives. You wondered if he’d ever develop an old-man game. Maybe he’s not Flash anymore—more like a dimmer. But even half Wade-speed is enough: He found his way past defenders, pulled up in space, and stopped Philadelphia’s fourth-quarter run by stripping 24-year-old Dario Saric. Seven shots went in before he even missed his first, an attempt from deep. Fifteen seasons in and he’s still trying to make the perimeter happen. Old habits die hard.
PLAYOFF WADE IS COOKING TONIGHT!— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) April 17, 2018
Dwyane has 14 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting in 9 minutes of action. pic.twitter.com/O2RnOUGTbl
Wade tied a nice bow on his classic performance right before halftime. With his seventh bucket, he passed Larry Bird for 10th on the all-time postseason scoring list. The Heat played more close games (53 of 82—65 percent!) than anyone else in the NBA in the regular season, and did it without a superstar closer. On Monday, if maybe only for Monday, Wade was that superstar again.
Throwback Game 2 aside, Wade is still 36 years old. This game was the exception, not the rule. Wade managed 22 minutes a game with Miami this season, and Coach Spo is a master managing the player odometer. He had the foresight to keep Wade fresh for the end of a game. Miami wouldn’t have been in the game without Wade. But against a budding superstar like Ben Simmons, he can’t be the answer every night. Though he did do this, which we should celebrate:
Ben Simmons Meets the Justise League
Imagine averaging 7.8 points per game and having the audacity to scream “Bitch ass!” at Ben Simmons:
Are Justise Winslow and Donovan Mitchell friends? As a unit, Miami’s defense went from Nuggets-level bad to, well, Sixers-level good. Philadelphia was off, sure (more on that later), but credit is due to the Heat for forcing poor shot selection. Winslow was doing work for the length of the court, channeling Draymond Green not only with his hands—
Winslow pressuring Simmons full court and drawing a foul. pic.twitter.com/biqHx5iUhz— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) April 17, 2018
—but his mouth, too! It was the first time I’ve seen Simmons this bothered, which is a testament to the remarkable poise he has for a rookie. The defensive adjustment from Game 1—Winslow and James Johnson locking down up close rather than giving Simmons space to build up a head of steam or identify passing lanes—was brilliant enough, but the talking pushed Simmons to the edge. By the end of the night, Simmons had five fouls. Both of these Winslow strengths are essential (for Miami’s defense and our entertainment) moving forward.
Live by the Bellysova, Die by the Bellysova
Simmons was uncomfortable for most of the game, and that made it hard for him to set up his teammates in the fashion they have grown accustomed to. The Sixers went from a historically efficient Game 1 to shooting 19.4 percent from 3 in Game 2. Even their sharpest shooters struggled: J.J. Redick (who has been admittedly streaky this season) went 1-for-7; Robert Covington (see before note) was worse, 1-for-9; Marco Belinelli 2-for-8; the homie Dario, 3-for-10. Not one Sixer had a good night.
Say it out loud, and it seems obvious: The key to beating Philly (without Joel Embiid, at least) is wrecking what Simmons creates. Their 16-game win streak starts and ends with Simmons, but was also powered by role players who played above their heads for a couple weeks. They regressed in Game 2.
But hey, maybe Embiid will be back for Game 3.
Joel Embiid doesn't seem happy after the 76ers' Game 2 loss pic.twitter.com/GAWDkFBIOZ— SB Nation (@SBNation) April 17, 2018
We’re sick and tired of you being out, too, Joel.