Analysts look ahead to potential Miami Heat- Philadelphia 76ers series

A six-pack of Miami Heat notes on a Monday:

With the Heat and 76ers both up 3-1 in their first-round playoff series, analysts already are weighing in on a second-round series between Miami and Philadelphia.

“I would lean Miami over the 76ers,” ESPN’s JJ Redick said. “That matchup is good for [Miami]. They have multiple wing defenders. They can match up with James Harden. Bam Adebayo is one of the best defenders in the league.

He can switch on the perimeter and he can try to guard Joel Embiid 1-on-1 at times. Erik Spoelstra has figured out a way to maximize this group.”

ESPN’s Jalen Rose said he believes the Heat is thrilled to know about Embiid’s thumb injury, which he plans to play through.

“We’re going to be whacking at that thumb in the next round,” Rose said of the Heat.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said he planned to pick the Heat against Philadelphia anyway, but now will do it with even more conviction.

Embiid “is going to lose unless James Harden looks like he did in Houston, and Miami is not letting that happen,” Smith said. “It’s a wrap!”

According to ESPN, Embiid needs surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb but will wait until the season is over.

The 76ers will try to close out the visiting Raptors at 8 pm Monday on NBA TV. The Heat will try to eliminate the Hawks at 7 pm Tuesday on NBA TV and Bally Sports Sun.

Hawks coach Nate McMillan, in a Zoom session with reporters Monday, conceded that the Heat’s smaller lineups — with PJ Tucker at center — gave Atlanta problems.

“They put a lot of speed out there,” McMillan said. Four guards. Gabe Vincent starting did a good job pressuring the ball. They’re faster with that group. Caleb Martin being out there. What they were able to do is disrupt with a little more speed on the floor.”

On the Heat’s defense overall, McMillan said Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tucker can guard every position on the court and said the Heat’s system also makes them so good defensively, beyond their personnel.

“It’s the system,” he said. “This is a system Miami has played for a number of years. Erik Spoelstra does a great job with this team. But the system they have in place defensively. I faced this same defense in Indiana and we got swept in the playoffs.

“Bam’s ability to guard guards. You bring in a guy like Tucker. You bring in Kyle Lowry. Those guys are defensive-minded players. A few years ago, they brought in Andre Iguodala. They recruit personnel to fit their system. They’re pretty solid with Butler being the main guy defensively. They do a good job of finding the guys that fit the system they want to play.”

Couple other notes from McMillan:

He said he “pulled” Bogan Bogdanovic from Game 4 because “his legs looked a little heavy.”

McMillan noted his team was 2-0 when facing elimination in the play-in tournament: “In a do-or-die situation, we’ve stepped up and played ourselves into the playoffs.”

He called for his team to stay calm Tuesday:

“If you lose your cool, there are a number of things that can become distractions. You have to be able to come with that intensity and urgency but also be able to get yourself back to calm and focus and be clear on what you need to do.”

Among every NBA player who has defended at least 20 shots this postseason, nobody has held the player he’s guarding to a lower shooting percentage than Vincent, who started in place of the injured Lowry in Game 4.

Players guarded by Vincent are shooting 8 for 28. That 28.6 percent compares to the 45.2 percent that those players are shooting overall, according to NBA.com’s tracking data.

Hawks guard Trae Young is shooting 3 for 11 against Vincent in this series.

Vincent’s growth remains one of the neat stories of this Heat season, and team president Pat Riley has expressed his appreciation for what he’s bringing.

“He has been very encouraging, uplifting, had words of wisdom here and there,” Vincent said. “A lot of it has to do with the way I’ve competed, the toughness and sticking with it.”

The day before the series started, Vincent spent hours studying tape of Hawks games from home, and the work has paid off.

“He’s just pesky as hell on the defensive end, making it tough for whoever he’s lined up against,” Butler said. “He doesn’t back down. We all respect that. We all love him for that.”

When Adebayo said last week that it was “disrespectful” not to be a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year, it wasn’t the first time this season that he got worked up about the award.

According to Fox, Adebayo was furious after listening to Warriors forward Draymond Green’s podcast earlier this season because Green didn’t call Adebayo a shoo-in for the award.

Abbeyo called Green after listening to the podcast.

Green revealed last week that during that phone call, Adebayo “was like, What the [expletive], you mean nobody has solidified themselves as Defensive Player of the Year? Do you not watch me play?”

In the aftermath of Boston guard Marcus Smart winning the award, Green said on his podcast last week: “I thought it was a shame that Bam Adebayo wasn’t top three. I’m not sure what Bam has to do to get into the top three. But it was a crying shame that he didn’t make the top three. I can go on and on about that.

“But I think we all know how ridiculous it is that Bam Adebayo, sitting first place in the East, did not make the top three. Absolutely terrible. Bam I’m not sure what you got to do, my brother. I see him switch on the five. I see him be the catalyst to that defense, be the anchor to it. I see all of that. I see you Bam. I appreciate your defense.”

The player defended by Adebayo is shooting just 37.2 percent in this series (16 for 43), compared with the 49.6 percent that those players shoot overall.

Quick stuff: In Israel Gutierrez’s ESPN profile of Tyler Herro, his father Chris Herro said of the earlier narrative about his son: “It’s, ‘Can he be that dude?’ What are you talking about? He’s been doing it all year. If Tyler Herro doesn’t exist on the Miami Heat, the Miami Heat are a .500 club. Let’s be real, dude. “I’m not being arrogant because he’s my son. I’m just being real.”…

Young is shooting 4 for 12 against Tucker in this playoff series. All players defended by Tucker are shooting 20 for 49 in this series…

Fox college announcer Gus Johnson, hired by Turner to work some NBA playoff games this postseason, will call Game 5 on NBA TV with Greg Anthony on Tuesday. Eric Reid and John Crotty have the call on Bally Sports Sun.

This story was originally published April 25, 2022 12:30 PM.

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Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.

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