Joel Embiid took notes. That became clear on Friday-evening in Game 3 of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
So after Bam Adebayo averaged 23 points and 10.5 rebounds by helping the Miami Heat take a 2-0 lead over his Philadelphia 76ers, Embiid said it was time to set things straight in what resulted in the 76ers victory in Game 3.
“The big guy, Bam, dominated, and I was really pissed to see that other big guy play well against my team,” Embiid said of his return Friday after a concussion and an orbital fracture.
On Saturday, a day after being limited to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and three rebounds, Adebayo recognized he needed to be better.
“I still have to be aggressive,” Adebayo said after training at Wells Fargo Center. “That’s part of the game. You see different formations, you see different staff and then you just have to adjust your attacks.”
He said getting better angles on screens will be a priority in Sunday’s Game 4.
“They have definitely emphasized not letting the bag go through,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest things I noticed during the game. It’s just adjusting and trying to figure that out.”
He also said that nothing from Embiid came as a surprise: “I’ve been competing with Joel for five years now.”
But he acknowledged that it did change the way the Heat defended.
“We can’t switch from one to five like we used to,” Adebayo said. “Now we have to be more strategic with our switches.”
Part of a double technical foul with Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle in Friday night’s fourth quarter, Heat forward PJ Tucker wasn’t shy about confusing it with the 76ers.
“PJ does what he does,” 76ers Danny Green guard. “We don’t have soft guys in this team. We don’t back down. At the same time, we have to be smart. I’m not going to get into a wrestling match and get double techs. You know, just play smart and don’t let cheap stuff happen. Also, don’t give cheap stuff. Just play basketball.
“But be physical at the same time, just as physical as she is.”
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers had insisted on pushing his team back after the two opening series losses.
“They play tough,” said 76ers security guard Tyrese Maxey. “They’re an experienced team, and they’re tough, and you have to hold your ground and come together as a team. At the end of the day it’s a fight. Like I said, we’re going to fight them instead of chasing us and being an opposing team.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted the 76ers’ Game 3 grit and Tucker’s spiciness.
“I think they beat us with a lot of pressure and played 50-50 in the first half,” said Spoelstra. Tuck actually kept that conversation open, a lot of his plays. But unlike Tuck. I think too often we were hit first to the ball.”
Tucker hopes others will follow on Sunday.
“I feel like we need to be more aggressive, more deliberate on our side is what we need to do,” he said.
With the Dallas Mavericks-Phoenix Suns Western Conference semifinals now with at least five games left, the start time for the Heat’s Tuesday night Game 5 against the 76ers at the FTX Arena has been set as 7:30 PM. It would have started an hour later had the Suns defeated the Mavericks.
If a Thursday Game 6 of Heat-76ers is required at Wells Fargo Center, it will either start at 7 PM if Suns-Mavericks requires a Game 6, or at 8 PM if Suns-Mavericks finish in five games.
A potential Heat-76ers Game 7 at the FTX Arena on Sunday, May 15 is at 3:30 PM, 7:00 PM, or 8:00 PM, depending on the length of other series.
If the Heat advances, the Eastern Conference finals will begin on May 15 or 17, depending on the height of the Heat-76ers and Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics.