76ers

Heat's increased physicality bothers Sixers in Game 2

Heat's increased physicality bothers Sixers in Game 2

Game 1 was just a little too easy for the Sixers. Too much free space in transition, too many open threes, too many offensive rebounds. The Heat were determined to make Game 2 different.

An hour before tipoff, 15-year veteran Udonis Haslem’s focus was clear. “We gotta get into the physical part of the game,” Haslem said. “Make everything tough, make everything physical, raise our level of intensity as their level of intensity has raised. And then secondly, we’ll get into the X’s and O’s. But first of all, just pure competition.”

Miami’s physicality was on another level in Monday’s night 113-103 win (see observations). The Heat picked up Ben Simmons full court, chased Marco Belinelli and JJ Redick tight around every screen, and issued their fair share of “playoff fouls” whenever a Sixer found an inch of free space in the paint. It was a stark contrast to Game 1, when they gave Simmons plenty of room to operate, saw the Sixers make 18 of their 28 three-point attempts and conceded numerous open dunks.

“They were more physical, and I think that was the expectation,” JJ Redick said. “In terms of their schemes, they didn’t change a whole lot. I think the biggest thing was just how they approached their defense on Ben. Instead of sagging off in the paint, they were pressuring full court. Other than that, it was just being more physical all around with our bigs. We had trouble just getting to our plays sometimes.”

The Heat held the Sixers to 7-for-36 shooting from three-point range, their fourth-worst long-range shooting percentage of the season. While a few of those misses were open looks, a big part of the Sixers’ struggles from long range Monday were due to how closely the Heat tailed shooters off the ball, and how often they denied the initial action and made the Sixers take a worse shot.

“I just think we made it tough on them,” Heat guard Josh Richardson said. “They were able to get wherever they wanted last time and if you let them do that then they're just going to punish you. We took it upon ourselves in those last two days to come out tougher and make things harder on them.”

After a dismal second quarter in which they were outscored 34-13 the Sixers responded in the second half. Their shots still weren’t falling from deep, but the Sixers didn’t shy away from the physical challenge. Simmons, who scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half, was involved in plenty of pushing and shoving off the ball with Justise Winslow.

“They were a little bit more physical, but at the same time, our guys can throw bodies around,” Simmons said. “I think that was one of the biggest things.”

This series is going to be a fight, and Redick thinks it’s not the worst thing in the world that the Sixers absorbed a few blows Monday night.

“For the guys who haven’t been through the fire of the playoffs, this will sharpen you and strengthen you as a player, as a man, as a group,” Redick said. “Games like this are good for you, but it doesn’t feel good to lose.”

Sixers' Jimmy Butler and Nets' Jared Dudley fined for roles in Game 4 skirmish

Sixers' Jimmy Butler and Nets' Jared Dudley fined for roles in Game 4 skirmish

Though an executive has been suspended for Game 5 of the Sixers’ first-round series against the Nets — Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks, for entering the referees' locker room following Game 4 — both Jimmy Butler and Jared Dudley will be eligible to play.

Butler has been fined $15,000 for his part in Game 4’s third-quarter melee, while Dudley has been fined $25,000.

It’s hard to argue with the description that Dudley “escalated an on-court incident” by pushing Embiid after he took exception to his Flagrant 1 foul on the Nets’ Jarrett Allen. 

And though it’s difficult to imagine Butler or the Sixers simply accepting Dudley’s shove of their star center, the explanation that Butler “escalated it further” is accurate.

The league seems to be acknowledging Dudley played a more central role in the incident by giving him a larger fine. Unfortunately for the Sixers, both players received equal punishment on Saturday — ejections.

Embiid, appreciative of Butler sticking up for him, told reporters in Brooklyn Saturday night he would pay Butler’s fine. 

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Nets general manager Sean Marks suspended one game, fined $25,000 for entering referees' locker room after Game 4

Nets general manager Sean Marks suspended one game, fined $25,000 for entering referees' locker room after Game 4

Updated: 2:38 p.m.

The Sixers might have felt aggrieved Saturday after the third-quarter confrontation that resulted in the ejections of Jared Dudley and Jimmy Butler, a trade-off that favored the Nets.

But, after the Sixers pulled off a 112-108 Game 4 win without Butler, it was a member of the Nets’ organization who wanted to see the referees.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks has been suspended for Game 5 and fined $25,000 for entering the referees’ locker room after the game, the NBA announced Sunday.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Marks was upset over Joel Embiid's Flagrant 1 fouls in Games 2 and 4 not being adjudged Flagrant 2s. A Flagrant 2 foul is an automatic ejection.

Caris LeVert and Dudley had expressed their displeasure with Embiid laughing as he apologized postgame for his Game 2 elbow to Jarrett Allen's face. Embiid reiterated his apology before Game 3, saying he didn't mean to make light of the situation and that he'd texted Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to again let the Nets know he was sorry.

After his foul on Allen in Game 4 that kickstarted the scuffle which resulted in Dudley and Butler's ejections, Embiid immediately pointed to indicate he'd gone for the ball.

While Elton Brand will be watching at Wells Fargo Center on Monday night as the Sixers look to advance to the second round, Marks will have to watch elsewhere as his team tries to bring the series back to Brooklyn. 

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