In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Miami Heat fell by 18 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. Already down in the series 3-1, the Heat looked done. But this tough Heat team went on a 10-0 run. Twice in the fourth period, Miami cut the lead to eight points.
There's still fight left in the @MiamiHEAT. James Johnson gets the steal and delivers the pass to Goran Dragic. #HEATCulture Tune in and catch every moment on FOX Sports Sun. pic.twitter.com/QBIbn789wo— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 25, 2018
Dwyane Wade even had a wide-open look to cut the deficit to five with 5:41 left in the game. Unfortunately, that shot misfired. After a brief Philly drought that helped Miami get back into the game, the Sixers responded and held on for a 104-91 win to advance to the second round.
Although the Heat had a real opportunity to tie the series on Saturday, the Sixers out-matched Miami. It also hurt that Miami’s best two-way player Josh Richardson, who was questionable to play in tonight’s game after sustaining a shoulder sprain in Game 4, was limited by first-half foul trouble. Erik Spoelstra didn’t even play Richardson in the second half, possibly because he wasn’t healthy enough to contribute as he typically does.
Another starter who didn’t play much? Hassan Whiteside. After an encouraging Game 4 performance, Whiteside scored just two points and went 0-for-4 from the field, including missing a couple point-blank shots. Spoelstra yanked Whiteside just three minutes into the game after he didn’t like what he saw out of the big man.
The Heat played a pretty good first half, ending the second quarter with a tie game at 46. But as became common throughout the series, Philadelphia took advantage of an extended Heat lull in the third quarter and built a double-digit lead. The Heat are a tough-nosed team, but remained too offensively anemic to keep up with a Sixers team with two emerging superstars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid surrounded by knock-down shooters.
On a positive note, the Heat finally got something out of Tyler Johnson, whose left thumb injury has limited his offensive output. Johnson scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, including two 3-pointers, crucial on a night in which Richardson didn’t score.
Justise Winslow also took more steps forward in this playoff series, showcasing an ability to grow as an NBA player. Winslow scored 12 points, knocked down two 3-pointers, and attacked the basket in the right moments to manufacture easy points. A year ago, I wanted the Heat to trade Winslow. But he’s shown this year that he forms a triumvirate featuring Richardson and Bam Adebayo that gives Heat fans hope for the future.
Justise Winslow's full-court playmaking in this series has been unbelievably valuable. Key to the Heat's selective transition. pic.twitter.com/RNe5wleqTG— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) April 25, 2018
I won’t be too hard on Wade — he may have played his last NBA game, and this season highlight is undoubtedly his surprise trade back to the franchise he built — but No. 3 shot just 4-for-15 from the field and committed an inexcusable ball-watching defensive error that lead to an uncontested T.J. McConnell layup. Despite his less-than-ideal performance, I hope Wade stays next year. He’s still good in spurts and would serve as a great mentor to the Heat’s younger players.
And that closes the book on the Heat’s 30th NBA season. After the Heat’s Big Three era, Miami tried to win without stars in an NBA era that has surpassed the Heat model. It wasn’t enough against the Sixers, and Pat Riley has some difficult contracts to move if he wants to find a star. We’ll see what changes this team will make to have a better season next year.