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The Philadelphia 76ers’ offense has been a box of chocolates in these playoffs.
The Sixers have had the two most efficient offensive performances (for any team) in this postseason, scoring more than 140 points per 100 possessions in Games 1 and 6 of the first round. But they’ve also been held under a point per possession in two of their seven playoff games, with Game 1 of their conference semifinals series against the Miami Heat being the second of those rough performances. The Sixers were without Joel Embiid on Monday, and they also had their second worst 3-point shooting game (6-for-34) of the season.
The Sixers have been fairly consistent defensively through the playoffs. But they’re now 4-0 when they’ve scored more than 105 points per 100 possessions, and 0-3 when they haven’t. With Embiid out again, Game 2 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT) isn’t exactly a “you never know what you’re gonna get” situation. But the Sixers’ offense could certainly be better than it was in Game 1.
Here are some things to look for (on both ends of the floor) as the Heat try to take a 2-0 series lead…
1. The Heat’s offense can be better too
According to Second Spectrum tracking, Miami got higher quality shots than Philly in Game 1. But the Heat’s effective field goal percentage (48.4%) was their lowest of their six playoff games and not that much higher than that of the Sixers (46.8%). They were more efficient (106 points on just 93 possessions), because they attempted 13 more shots from the field, dominating the glass and committing two fewer turnovers.
The Sixers shot 1-for-12 (8%) on wide-open 3s. The Heat (one of five teams who shot better than 40% on wide-open 3s in the regular season) weren’t much better: 4-for-18 (22%).
Even against the Sixers’ zone, which had good numbers overall, good looks were had…
As they went scoreless on their final six trips of the first half, the Heat also had some confounding half-court possessions against man-to-man…
At halftime on Monday, the Heat had just 50 points on 50 offensive possessions. They scored 46 points on their first 31 possessions of the second half, and that was the game. But given their struggles in the first half, you can see how they could be even better in Game 2.
2. Alternative ball-handlers?
James Harden did not have his best game on Monday. As noted (and illustrated) in the postgame story, the Heat shrunk the floor when Harden used a pick or isolated. He finished with just 10 drives in Game 1, down from 16.0 per game (10th in the league) in the regular season and 17.7 (sixth) in the first round. He had just six points and one assist on those 10 drives, with the Sixers scoring just 0.9 points per chance when he drove.
They had a little more success (1.0 points per chance) when Tobias Harris attacked off the dribble. Harris had 11 drives in Game 1, up from 6.2 per game in the first round. And he had some success both going around…
… and through smaller defenders…
In that fourth-quarter play above, Cody Martin was shading toward a Tyrese Maxey iso on Bam Adebayo, and Harris was able to attack the recovery. Between Harden, Maxey and Harris, the Sixers have three guys who can be a primary ball-handler or attack the seams of the Miami defense. They may just need to be quicker in doing the latter.
3. The pivotal third quarter
These were the two best third-quarter teams in the first round, with the Sixers outscoring Toronto by 33.6 points per 100 possessions and the Heat outscoring Atlanta by 30.2 per 100 in the third period. The Sixers won all six third quarters in the first round. The Heat won four of five, only losing the third quarter of Game 5 by a point.
And the third quarter was the decisive one on Monday. It began with the Sixers up one, and it ended with the Heat up eight. After an empty trip to start the second half, Miami scored 28 points over its next 15 possessions, with four different guys scoring at least five of those 28 points.
The third won’t necessarily be the most critical stretch of Game 2, but thus far, it’s been pretty important for both of these teams.
4. The DJ question lingers
As noted in the postgame story (and everywhere else on the internet), DeAndre Jordan’s minutes in Game 1 were not good. Of course, Jordan was not solely responsible for every empty possession the Sixers had while he was on the floor. Nor was he responsible for every shot the Heat made while he was out there.
According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Heat scored 1.4 points per chance when Jordan defended a ball screen in Game 1. Some of that was the ballhandler stepping into a comfortable jumper because Jordan wasn’t leaving the paint. Some of it was a contested Adebayo post-up shot bouncing around the rim and in after the Sixers shut down the initial pick-and-roll action…
It’s a make-or-miss league and bad results don’t always signify a bad process. Still, the results with Jordan on the floor have been pretty bad all season. And it will be fascinating to see, if Jordan does indeed start again, what the results are in Game 2. If they’re bad again, it will be even more fascinating to see what Sixers coach Doc Rivers does about it.
Maybe Embiid will be back for Game 3, when the Sixers are home. But Game 2 is still critical, and Rivers can’t be too slow to go away from something that’s hurting his team.
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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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