Let’s stick to the perspective: Philadelphia, as a comeback drama, is a hot story. A trending story. Joel Embiid, in the first two games, returned to replace the playoff series in the last two games against the Miami Heat.
James Harden was getting old and fat before our eyes before he scored 31 points in Philadelphia’s Game 4 win on Sunday night. Philadelphia may have been the first team, “in their history,” as the TNT broadcast repeatedly stated, to come back from a 0–2 deficit to win a series.
So, they are such a hot story that if you keep your ear to the ground, you can feel some vibration in the distance, a deep and thunderous sound of motion.
“You know how fast that can change?” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said.
Well, he was talking about 3-point shooting of his players, not the series. But the two are connected.
“We have a lot of fire people,” he said.
He mentioned Tyler Harrow, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson…
“We see a couple go down, which can turn into four, five, six” – he patted his fingers – “Like that.”
You want perspective? It’s not in the abstract or the last two Philadelphia victories. It’s right there in building numbers. The Heat shot 21.5 percent at 3-pointers in the last two games in Philadelphia after shooting 35.4 percent at home in the first two games.
Philadelphia was the opposite. He scored 21.9 percent on 3-pointers in the first two games in Miami and 48.5 percent in his home games.
So it’s a 2-2 series with heat gain. As such the advantage can be gauged as Embiid missed two games in Miami. But as irrelevant to the NBA regular season as it plays out, that’s why the Heat chased that top playoff seed so hard.
For that extra home match in this series. This a game. Maybe this is the difference here as well. It is this approach of putting in a series that has become harder and more stressful than expected.
The Heat were in trouble during Sunday’s damage. Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker were in dire straits. Kyle Lowry’s obstinate hamstrings acted again in a way that suggests he won’t be a factor in the series.
The Heat lacked the big guys so much that Markif Morris made his first appearance in these playoffs and had a shot blocked by Embiid that swung Morris past the ball.
The brightest shape is Heat’s kryptonite. Milwaukee made it’s final playoff appearance. Embiid will try again in a best two-out series of three.
But they were there to steal the game on Sunday night for all the Heat’s problems. Some of that is the normal course of an NBA game. Some of it is also the heat’s never-ending ability to stop.
Most of it was Jimmy Butler too. He had 40 marks. He kept coming back to Philadelphia whenever the game was nearing its end.
“We were banging on the door,” Spoelstra said. “I just realized he had a handful of assets in the last five minutes that went up to[the shot clock]and he hit some big shots. We were defending 24 seconds, 23 seconds, 22 seconds – and they made a big difference.” hit.”
Does Harden have another game like this with Embed Back? Can Butler take the heat again the same way if needed?
“There’s a slim margin for error on both sides,” Spoelstra said.
The accepted rules role in the NBA is a matter of homecourt for the players. And, well, apart from Butler for the Heat and Embiid for Philadelphia, they’re all role players at the moment. Even Adebayo and Harden define themselves that way.
Great regular-season tales like Max Strauss and Gabe Vincent have been relegated to audiences for the most part of this series. Victor Oladipo’s importance has only increased because talent matters the deeper you go in the playoffs.
And Duncan Robinson? Does his 3-point shooting bring him off the Siberian bench? The heat bench is even deeper than Philadelphia. But Philadelphia’s bench was more productive on Sunday, from 19 points to 15.
“I needed to go into the movie and see what’s real and what’s emotional,” Spoelstra said.
“We’re so far from playing our best basketball, it’s an encouraging thing,” Embiid said.
Perspective is not lost because of the last two matches. This is a three-match series, in which there will be heat for two at home if needed. The pressures on Philadelphia still remain, as they tend to be in story form.
The mentioned Spoelstra needs some of those enthusiastic players to ignite in Tuesday’s Game 5. But now everything changes in one night. or a player. or a shot. Or being the No. 1 seed would seem as irrelevant as the way the other teams treated it.