The short-handed Sixers walked into the halftime locker room holding a 51-50 lead. No saw that coming in Game 1. What happened in the second half was more the reality everyone had expected.
Miami beat Philadelphia 106-92 to take a 1-0 series advantage in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Doc Rivers was catching heat for starting DeAndre Jordan over Paul Reed. James Harden was being blamed for not being aggressive enough. And the third-worst scoring bench in the NBA went ice cold. So, yes, there was plenty of blame to go around in this one.
Tobias Harris was the lone bright spot as the Sixers forward scored a game-high 27 points. No one else could buy a bucket, especially from the three-point line. Danny Green went 1-for-5. Georges Niang went 0-for-7. James Harden went 2-for-7. And Tyrese Maxey went 1-for-6. The Sixers combined to go 6-for-34 from deep, with their bench contributing only 21 points.
Part of the problem was not making shots. The other main issue? Not having Joel Embiid who is recovering from an orbital bone fracture and mild concussion. The Sixers are hopeful he can play in Game 3.
“It’s a hard game to script without your big guy,” Rivers told reporters before Game 1. “You know when you have Joel you can really script the game, when to take him out, when to put him in. Without him, you really can’t do that.
“We have concepts on what we think we can do offensively as an example, but you have to really be open. These are those games where you have to be free enough, fearless enough, to try a lot of different things that you probably wouldn’t try.”
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James Harden Still Not Aggressive Enough
The main talking point heading into the series was the aggressiveness of James Harden. Would the 2018 MVP come out in attack mode as he did in Game 6 in the last round? Or would he simply defer to teammates and slog the pace down?
Well, Harden did a little bit of both in Game 1. He had 10 points through the first two quarters, then disappeared in the second half. He finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists. It’s starting to look like this is the only way Harden knows how to play now. Gone are the days of him jacking up 20 shots a night. Maybe it’s time to move him to the off-guard spot and put Tyrese Maxey on the ball. He can’t get downhill anymore.
“He needs to be more of a scorer,” Shaquille O’Neal said of Harden on the TNT post-game show. “Time is running out for him.”
“They had the game right there at halftime. They were up,” Charles Barkley said. “You got to get more than 4 shots if you’re James Harden. He should be shooting 25, 27 times.”
Losing the Rebounding Battle, Giving Up Shots
The Sixers couldn’t make shots and they couldn’t corral the rebounds to get themselves second-chance points. The Heat outrebounded them 47-37, including 15-9 on the offensive glass. They also got 52 points in the paint while seeming to outhustle the Sixers for every loose ball.
Rivers pointed to the fact that Miami got up 92 total shots in Game 1, compared to 79 for Philly. Throw the shooting percentages out the window. That’s too many shots.
“They still scored 106 [points] because they had more shots,” Rivers said in his post-game press conference. “So very similar to the Toronto series in that we told our guys they can’t have more rebounds, offensive rebounds. We’re working with a small margin for error and so we can’t give the other team 13 extra shots on the road without Joel [Embiid] and think we’re going to win the game.”