Why Joel Embiid’s presence was finally missed in Game Two
The 76ers need “The Process” to lead them past The Heat
Thought this would be easy?
The Philadelphia 76ers, winners of 17 straight, entered Tuesday night’s Game Two of the NBA Playoffs with a glow about them. The young, confident team has been riding a high over the past month. Ben Simmons and company have enjoyed the praise of many pundits and fans as the team has continued its winning ways. That all came to a screeching halt against the Miami Heat. The physicality of the Miami Heat, along with a vintage Dwyane Wade performance, propelled the Heat past the 76ers in Game Two.
With physicality being the key word of Tuesday night’s game, the 76ers could have certainly used the services of Joel Embiid. This further highlights his importance and why he is the man the team needs the most.
Game Two started with the raucous crowd in Philadelphia pumping energy into Wells Fargo Arena, much like they did in Game One. This time though, the Heat were ready. They were not going to allow the 76ers to feed off the energy of the crowd from the start.
The Heat guards swarmed at the Sixers’ shooters and stood toe-to-toe with Ben Simmons. By doing so, it did not allow any air space for him to maneuver through. This led to the Sixers shooting a low 41 percent from the field and an abysmal 7 for 36 from beyond the arc. Every time Sixers shooters would come off screens, the Heat would be right there contesting the shot. JJ Reddick, Marco Belinelli and Robert Covington, the three best Sixer shooters, were a combined 6 for 28. With the three point shot not falling, and the team not really having many players who can create plays off the dribble, the baby Sixers were bound to struggle.
Enter Joel Embiid and the importance of his presence. All year long, Joel Embiid has not only been the team’s best defensive player, but he has been used as the other player who can create for himself with the ball in his hand. Giving the ball to Joel in the post area creates so many opportunities and another dynamic for the Sixers offense. He is a load down there and teams have to make a choice as to how they want to defend the Sixers.
The presence of Embiid would most certainly make Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside a factor in this series. Whiteside has essentially been an afterthought through two games and he would be tasked with neutralizing Embiid. Still, with Embiid’s physical stature, he could cause some foul trouble for not only the Heat center, but for the team overall. In Game 2 the Sixers did shoot 22 free throws but that paled in comparison to the 30 free throws that the Heat shot. Embiid in the post could create for easier points and opportunities as opposed to the Sixers launching contested threes as they did in Game Two.
The Sixers are a team that will naturally shoot a high volume of threes. Those shots would come easier however by playing through Joel Embiid.
This is a young team in foreign territory. The Heat proved in Game Two that they were not going to be used as a sacrificial lamb to promote the Sixers to national prominence. The most physical team between the two won Game Two as a pivotal Game Three emerges Thursday night. The Sixers need their physical anchor to combat what the Heat bring to the table.
It has been a nice run for the Sixers and Ben Simmons, but Tuesday night reminded everyone just how important Joel Embiid is.