Confident Heat host 76ers in Game 3
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The Miami Heat went to Philadelphia to open their first-round series of the NBA playoffs, and coach Erik Spoelstra's team did what they always do.
Get a win after losing Game 1.
Miami ran its record to 7-0 in Game 2 contests after being down 1-0 in a series under Spoelstra by beating the 76ers 113-103 on Monday to even the series at 1-1, shifting home-court advantage to the No. 6-seeded Heat.
With the Heat returning to South Beach for Game 3 on Thursday in much better spirits than after Saturday's Game 1 drubbing, much of the credit for Miami's surge falls squarely on Dwyane Wade, who was discarded by the Cleveland Cavaliers in their run-up to the playoffs and gridded as the second-worst jump shooter in the NBA this season.
Wade outscored Philadelphia 21-20 in the final 15 minutes of the first half. Then, after a 21-7 run by the Sixers cut Miami's lead to a perilous two points, Spoelstra put Wade back on the court in the final minutes, and the Chicago native stepped through a portal and went back in time.
Wade stealthily swooped in on Dario Saric and hacked the ball away for a steal, then scored on a breakaway dunk. Wade then passed to a slashing James Johnson for a dunk on the next possession. Then came an offensive rebound that led to a jumper by Goran Dragic and, finally, Wade's own long shot -- a 23-foot dagger over Philly's star rookie Ben Simmons -- that iced the game.
Not too shabby for a 36-year-old near the end of his Hall of Fame career.
Wade's numbers completely belied his age. In 26 minutes off the bench, Wade totaled 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. He also posted a game-best plus-16 rating.
"I don't care what his numbers were anywhere else or all year long or at different times. He's (made) for these moments," said Spoelstra, whose team won a road game in their 19th straight series, dating to 2011.
Philadelphia was riding a 27-point blowout win in Game 1 and a 17-game winning streak, including 11 straight at home.
However, Wade proved to be too much for the Sixers to overcome. And coach Brett Brown knows his team, which has played both games without injured All-Star center Joel Embiid, must prepare for the energy and production Wade provides off the Heat bench.
"There was a rhythm and a calmness to his game like he didn't feel too much. And there was a real confidence the way he played to make those shots. That is classic Dwyane Wade," Brown said to the media after the loss.
"Dwyane's steal changed the game. If you were to pick one defining moment, one defining play, I think it was that."
Embiid, who is out with an orbital fracture, was frustrated by being kept out of the Sixers' lineup again, and a serious question remains if he will be able to play in Game 3.
He posted an Instagram story Monday saying he was "sick and tired of being babied," and the Heat's aggressive style and defense intensified without Embiid in the lineup.
"There's a way you have to play in the NBA playoffs from a toughness standpoint and a physicality standpoint, and that was shown tonight," Brown said of the Heat's effort in Game 2.
"To me, (this game was) the reality of NBA basketball, and it only gets harder. This game equals the NBA playoffs."
Updated April 18, 2018