Following an impressive blowout victory in Game 3 of the series, the Sixers were looking for more of the same in Game 4 against the Heat. The Sixers, however, weren’t nearly as sharp as they were in the previous contest. Turnovers plagued the team and they struggled to get into a groove from beyond the arc for the second consecutive outing. Let’s recap the action from Game 4 in Miami:
Clean up on Aisle 76
Sloppy, reckless, and negligent are words that come to mind when trying to describe the Sixers play on Saturday evening. The team was simply careless with the ball, committing 17 turnovers in the first half(!) and 26 turnovers overall(!). Turnovers are expected from such a young team, especially on the road in a playoff atmosphere, but the amount the Sixers committed in Game 4 was inexcusable.
The plethora of turnovers allowed the Heat to not only compete with the Sixers, but control the lead for majority of the game. It’s apparent that the Sixers are the superior team, but it’s almost impossible to win against any team with such a high turnover rate. Fortunately for Philly, the Heat were almost equally as dysfunctional, piling up 19 turnovers of their own. I’d expect ball handling and passing to be an emphasis in practice as HC Brett Brown preps his team for Game 5 in Philly.
In addition to the turnovers slowing the team down, there was also a ton of extracurricular activity after the whistle. The Heat- James Johnson in particular- were especially aggressive with the Sixers:
— Old-Time Buckets (@oldtimebuckets) April 21, 2018
JAMES JOHNSON VS. THE WORLD pic.twitter.com/GJrzF3VhEP
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) April 21, 2018
I personally think Johnson realized that he’d have to get under Ben Simmons’ skin and try to throw him off his game if Miami wanted any shot at winning, so he harassed the rookie star. Simmons, to his credit, handled the unwarranted physicality and petty insults incredibly well- maintaining his composure and remaining focused on winning the game. With that being said, Johnson should have definitely been tossed from this game, and the fact he was allowed to stay is just another example of the poor officiating in this series.
Joining some Elite Company
Speaking of rookie stud Ben Simmons, he recorded his first career playoff triple-double in Game 4. The young lefty finished with a 17 point, 13 rebound, and 10 assist stat line, making him just one of five rookies in NBA history to record a triple-double in the postseason:
— Sixers Stats (@SixersStats) April 21, 2018
Simmons was simply terrific as he carried his team to victory, and it was yet another example of why he deserves to be the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year.
Joel Embiid was back for his second game of the series, and his presence was certainly felt on the defensive end. The masked all-star swatted five shots, including a monstrous chase down block on Goran Dragic:
2:37 to play pic.twitter.com/976XnwXMf9
— NBA (@NBA) April 21, 2018
The Cameroonian center didn’t have much success on the offensive end, so it’s encouraging to see him stay engaged and make a positive impact with his defense. I also love the stare down he gave Dragic after sending his shot to the underworld, as it sent a message that the Philly defense isn’t allowing any freebies.
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Learning How to Win
Miraculously, despite the abundance of turnovers and poor shooting, the Sixers only trailed by single digits entering the fourth quarter. The team displayed incredible resiliency as they climbed out of the hole they placed themselves in, placing the Heat in there instead. The defense stepped up in a major way in the final quarter, holding Miami to just 19 points.
Stifling defense along with some clutch late-game baskets propelled the Sixers over the Heat, pushing the series lead to 3-1. It was by far the young team’s most resilient performance to date. Even HC Brett Brown was impressed by the team’s effort and surprised that they were able to overcome their sloppy play:
"I'm shocked that we won this game. We really didn't have a right to win the game." – @sixers head coach, Brett Brown after Game 4 win
— NBA TV (@NBATV) April 21, 2018
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised with the Sixers comeback effort, given the team’s success in the fourth quarter this series:
The 76ers have outscored the Heat by 42 points in the 4th quarter in the first 4 games of the series.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 21, 2018
Pulling out victories despite not bringing your ‘A game’ is what separates contenders from pretenders, and the Sixers win shows that they have a legit shot at representing the Eastern conference in the Finals this year. They’ll need to clean things up and close out the series, but this could be the start of a deep postseason run. Here They Come.