Justin Anderson downplays Game 3 scuffle with Dwyane Wade

Justin Anderson downplays Game 3 scuffle with Dwyane Wade

Amir Johnson was getting dressed at the locker next to Justin Anderson when the veteran center looked up with a calm request.

“Tell the truth,” Johnson said with a smile.

That’s because Anderson was attempting to downplay his second-quarter run-in with Heat guard Dwyane Wade during the Sixers’ 128-108 Game 3 win Thursday in Miami (see game recap).

“It’s just a common foul. I’m not tripping about it,” Anderson said.

Anderson may not have wanted to make a big deal over the incident, but the foul was anything but common.

With 10:26 on the clock in the second quarter, Anderson locked up with Wade on the defensive end. Anderson pushed off as he attempted to front Wade in the post when the three-time champion latched onto the Sixers guard’s arm and flung him out of bounds. Anderson fell down into a couple photographers before getting up to confront Wade. Both players were separated and assessed taunting technical fouls for the play.

“I don’t remember,” Anderson said. “It was just a tough play for both of us. Just continue to move on. Next play.”

The skirmish was just one example of the heightened physicality in the series. Game 3 witnessed 56 total personal fouls and six technicals.

Despite playing just two minutes in the series prior to Thursday night, Anderson knew he was walking into a battle.

“They hit us in Game 1. They were physical from the start,” said Anderson, who had six points and four rebounds during nine minutes of action in Game 3. “I try to take every opportunity that I’m given. Watching the game for the first two games from the bench, I kind of recognized that the physicality was real high. I just mentally prepared myself that if I go in I’ve got to hit first or they’re going to hit me.”

So is it safe to say Anderson is the Sixers’ new enforcer?

“Like in hockey? Nah,” he said. “I just play hard. I play hard and make sure I do whatever I can to help our team win. That’s all that really matters.”

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

ap-sixers-covington-brown.jpg
AP Images

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

You’ve witnessed the Miami scenes. 

The pristine beaches, exciting nightlife, eclectic cuisine. The list goes on.

It all adds up to one of the best destination experiences in the United States.

And the Sixers don’t want anything to do with it.

This is a business trip.

Scratch that. This is battle.

“It just becomes, I think, a little bit more insular, a little bit more of a bunker mentality,” Brett Brown said at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a little bit more of trying to minimize distractions. You’re not in your own bedroom. You’re not in your own sort of comfort zone, your own routine, rhythm to your day.

“It’s a huge part of young players figuring out life on the road and it certainly gets exacerbated in the playoffs. But I like it. I like the mentality and the spirit of being together. I think we have a very close team and I think it forces you to become even closer when you’re just not at home.”

Games 3 and 4 inside AmericanAirlines Arena will feel like anywhere but home for the Sixers. In the first road playoff game for this young team, the players will have to deal with crowd noise and an extremely physical opponent.

The volume will subside as the Sixers are able to string together baskets, and they know the only way to do that is take the smart approach to the Heat’s increased physicality.

“It doesn’t have to be macho vs. macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality. It can mean speed, it can mean space, it can mean the technique of just creating a lead and getting open. A simple jab step and putting your arm in somebody’s chest and throwing out a lead hand as an example of stuff you’d learn in eighth grade. But it all equals fundamentals, poise, technique, that stuff to combat physicality.

“It’s not they punch you, you punch them, they punch … it’s not that at all."

“You don’t want to do anything that can put yourself in a predicament, allow someone to get hurt,” Robert Covington said. “Nobody wants to get fined, nobody wants to be on the back end of something like that because it can be retaliation that can come from it. You have to play smart and just have to sit up here and do it different ways. You cannot get caught up in the moment and do something crazy.”

Whatever physical tactics the Heat attempt, the Sixers promise they’ll be ready this time around.

“I’ve got a few hits for people coming their way,” Ben Simmons said.

“I’m ready to play.”

Sixers ready to embrace Heat's increased physicality on defense

ap-sixers-markelle-fultz.jpg
AP Images

Sixers ready to embrace Heat's increased physicality on defense

The Heat’s physicality in Game 2 didn’t bother every Sixers player.

“I think this is the first time where it’s been let go a little bit more, which has been good. I enjoy it,” said Ben Simmons, who recorded 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the Sixers’ 113-103 loss. “I love competing against guys like that, who you know want to hit each other and knock each other down, which is good.”

When you’re a 6-10, 230-pound bruising version of a point guard, that type of play would definitely appear to fit your style. 

Chalk Simmons up as the exception and not the rule for the Sixers, although the entire team knew the Heat were going to punch back after a lopsided Game 1.

“Obviously, they were very physical,” Markelle Fultz said after Tuesday’s practice. “I don’t think that was like something we were shocked by. We knew they were going to come out more physical. That was one of the emphasis they had coming in.”

“Honestly, it was what we expected them to do,” JJ Redick said. “We didn’t expect things to be as easy as that second half was in Game 1. They’re a championship organization with a lot of pride. That was expected. So we have to kind of move on and go under the assumption that that’s how it’s going to be the rest of the series.”

If that’s the case, this Sixers team with limited playoff experience outside of a few veterans better get adjusted in a hurry.

The Sixers were clearly affected by Miami’s increased defensive intensity on Monday night. They shot just 41.7 percent from the field (19.4 percent from three-point range) and committed 15 turnovers. More importantly, they allowed the Heat to knock their entire offense out of rhythm.

“I think, too, it wasn’t just about physicality,” Redick said. “I think a byproduct of that, and probably part of their strategy, was if you’re physical you’re going to foul. The game becomes choppy and the game is played at their pace. We have to figure out a way to play the game at our pace.”

The Sixers know getting the game on their terms means being stronger with the ball, setting better screens and cutting harder to the basket. However, perhaps the best way to counter the Heat’s extra physicality is by simply embracing the defensive pressure.

“Honestly, I think it can help us a lot because with team pressure we can just be able to attack,” Fultz said. “If we get to the rim, we have great athletes and we have great shooters. So get to the rim.”