One of my takeaways following the Sixers' Game 1 performance was that their 6-34 performance from beyond the arc was receiving too much attention. My reasoning for saying that wasn't to argue that their shooting woes DIDN'T have a profound impact on the competitiveness of the game, as it obviously did. Instead, it was largely based on two reasons.
First, while the Sixers launched a decent amount of shots from deep, they weren't necessarily high quality looks. They were shots the Sixers have made in the past, for sure, but a good chunk of them came off of self-created, deep, contested shots rather than open looks that were the result of forced defensive rotations and crisp ball movement. They were the kind of shots that are fine when the offense breaks down but that are tough to make as the backbone of your half-court offensive attack.
But more importantly, the focus on shooting variance in Game 1 made it easy to overlook a pretty simple fact: the Sixers were outplayed in almost all facets of the game. Sure, a better shooting night might have let them sneak out a win they otherwise didn't deserve, but they were also dominated on the glass, couldn't stay in front of their man on defense, struggled to handle Miami's pressure defense and had poor showings from Tyrese Maxey and James Harden, two players absolutely vital to give this short-handed team a chance to win without Joel Embiid.
They didn't deserve to win Game 1, full stop.
Game 2 was a wildly different song, though. They actually won the possession game, keeping the rebounding battle reasonably close (eight offensive rebounds to five) and committing just eight turnovers on the night. Tyrese Maxey went off for 34 points, including 23 on 7-11 shooting in the second half, giving the Sixers the shot in the arm they mostly did not have in Game 1. James Harden, while not turning back the clock into Houston Harden, did what he could to consistently create high-quality looks for his teammates. And Paul Reed, in perhaps the most shocking development of the game, picked up just two fouls in 25 minutes of play, helping the Sixers' defense remain slightly more active than it was in Game 1.
But at the end of the day, actually putting that round ball through that round hoop matters. It matters a lot.
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