NBA

Dwyane Wade turns up the Heat as pressure shifts to Philadelphia 76ers while return of Joel Embiid looms

Jay Asser 17:45 17/04/2018
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Dwyane Wade had 28 points in 26 minutes off the bench for Miami.

Everyone knew a Dwyane Wade game was coming at some point – it just happened to come before the series shifted back to Miami as the Heat stole home court advantage from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Wade turned back the clock to produce the kind of playoff performance he once delivered with regularity in his prime, scoring 28 points in just 26 minutes off the bench to even the first-round series in Miami’s 113-103 win.

It was the 76ers’ first loss in over a month and ended their 17-game winning streak.

With the Heat in need of some offensive punch, the 36-year-old Wade stepped up to shoot an efficient 11-of-16 from the field, proving he still has some big-time shot-making left in the tank, even if it’s become a rarer sight in the twilight of his career.

However, as much as Wade reminded what he’s capable of, Philadelphia shouldn’t overreact and remain in a favourable position control the series.

For one, it will be difficult for Wade to play that well again.

In Game 2, he was automatic in the mid-range, making 7-of-8 from the area, while hitting all three of his fadeaways. For the season, Wade shot just 33.5 per cent on mid-range and 34.4 per cent on fadeaways, so it’s likely he regresses to the mean next game.

Speaking of regressing to the mean, the 76ers should see a positive regression when it comes to their outside shooting.

It’s unlikely they’ll make a blistering 18-of-28 triples and score 130 points on Miami’s stout defence again, but they’re also unlikely to hit just 7-of-36 from long range going forward.

Philadelphia ranked 10th in the league in 3-point percentage during the season, converting at a 36.9 per cent clip, and they shot 39.5 per cent during their 17-game winning streak.

The Heat are stingy when it comes to guarding the 3-ball as they ranked sixth in both opponent attempts and makes during the season, but the 76ers have chosen to be aggressive from beyond the arc in the series by surrounding Ben Simmons with knock-down shooters.

Dario Saric, J.J. Redick, Ersan Ilyasova, Robert Covington and Marco Belinelli combined to hit 17-of-27 in Game 1. They collectively struggled in the loss, taking and making all of Philadelphia’s treys.

But even when they’re not connecting to the extent they were in the opener, the 76ers’ shooters provide spacing for Simmons to operate as a scorer, offering an uncluttered paint to attack downhill.

The point guard had 24 points in Game 2 on 10-of-17 from the field and continued to overcome Miami’s strategy of giving him ample space to dare him to shoot.

Philadelphia’s offence may have a different look in Miami, but it would be a welcomed change as Joel Embiid could return to the court after recovering from a broken orbital bone.

The All-Star centre has been sidelined since March 28 and took to social after Game 2 to show his frustration at not yet being cleared to play.

“F****** sick and tired of being babied,” Embiid posted on his Instagram story.

Embiid, of course, has been treated with caution by the franchise after dealing with multiple injuries at the start of his career.

When he’s on the floor though, the 76ers are a much better team, posting a 41-22 record in games he played in the regular season and a 11-8 mark when he was out.

“When you’re seeking to become a whole team, you need Joel Embiid,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said after Game 2.

While Hassan Whiteside has barely been a factor so far in the series, playing a total of 27 minutes, the 76ers could use Embiid on both ends to alleviate pressure.

With the way Miami have hounded the ball defensively and made Philadelphia work, Embiid would be a release valve in the post, as well as someone who can create shots for others. And on the other end of the floor, the Defensive Player of the Year candidate would thwart the Heat’s slashing.

Whenever Embiid returns, the 76ers will receive a boost, but in the meantime they’re more than capable of stealing back home court.

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