Philadelphia (WPHL)- The Philadelphia 76ers lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Miami Heat Monday. Without Joel Embiid, the Heat outrebounded the Sixers by ten and scored more points in the paint with 52 to the Sixers 46.
Sadly, the Sixers were supposed to steal Game 1 even without Embiid. The Heat left the door wide open multiple times during the game for the Sixers to take control. The team failed to take advantage of the lousy shooting night the Heat team had and now are on the verge of ending a championship or bust season in the 2nd round.
James Harden has to be more aggressive
When the Sixers acquired James Harden, the team and the fans thought he was the missing piece in winning a championship. Many said Harden and Embiid is this generation version of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. However, Harden has not been that superstar to take the 76ers to the next level.
Harden, who averaged 34 points two seasons ago for the Houston Rockets, can barely get 25 points in a game for the Sixers. Harden hasn’t scored 25 plus for the Sixers since March 29 in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, where he scored 32 and shot 12 free throws.
Yes, Harden, who is in his 13th NBA season, maybe lost a step. But, his production on the court can not drop significantly because he will ask for a supermax extension this offseason. In Game 2, Harden must find a way to get more shot opportunities. Harden only attempted 13 shots in Game 1 versus the Heat. He only shot once in the 4th quarter. The Sixers need Harden to attempt 25 shots minimum if they expect to win in Miami. Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris can not be your best players in the game.
Expectations for Harden will be to play more aggressively in finding his shot. He has to insert himself in every play on the offensive end.
Doc Rivers again must commit to the zone defense and rotations early
The Sixers must commit to the Zone defense early in the game. The team does not have any lockdown man-to-man defenders since the departure of Ben Simmons. Harris looks like the Sixer’s most formidable perimeter defender from the eye test. Matisse Thybulle, an overrated defender, is flawed in ISO situations and when the offensive player attacks him. Thybulle is a zone coverage type defender who can disrupt plays. Danny Green is out of his prime and can’t defend like he used to.
The Sixers players are tailor-made to play zone rather than man-to-man defense. Doc Rivers should play zone defense since he has long arm defenders. He has to play into his team’s strengths and weaknesses. The team also has terrible defenders on the bench who will benefit from playing zone most of the game.
Rivers also need to commit to rotations that work. Deandre Jordan shouldn’t be out there. Paul Millsap is the better player right now and needs to start over Jordan.
Rivers also can not play Georges Niang and Furkan Korkmaz simultaneously. If they do not hit shots in the first half, then do not go back to them in the 3rd quarter. The Sixers were outscored 30-21 in the 3rd quarter. Playing two shooters with little to no defense is a recipe for disaster. Rivers need to pick one out of the two.
Why is Isaiah Joe not playing? Joe shot 33 percent from the 3-point line; meanwhile, Korkmaz shot 28 percent this season. Joe also has better defensive awareness than Korkmaz. It is no reason why he is not playing in this series.
Season is on the line
The team as a whole needs to play with more urgency! If the Sixers lose Game 2, the series is over. Going down 0-2 against a number one seed will be hard to overcome. Also, even if Embiid comes back in Game 3, he will not be 100 percent. You have to by Embiid more time to heal from his injury. Game 3 will be Friday, and Embiid status for the game is still unknown.
A theory lingering around the league is if The Sixers win Game 2, Embiid will play game 4. If Sixers fall in Game 2, he will force himself to play game 3 to avoid a 0-3 hole.
Game 2 tonight in Miami is the biggest game of the season for the Sixers. They must win!