The games may have been played exactly two weeks apart vs. different teams but they had a very similar look and feel. The Sixers have lost just twice since March 13. They had won 17 straight until falling in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the Heat.
Then there was Monday night's Game 1 smack down in Boston.
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Similarities by the numbers
Miami shot 48.8 percent (40 for 82) from the floor in their 113-103 win. Their only victory of the series. Boston shot 48.2 percent (41 for 85) in route to a 117-101 series-opening win.
Conversely, the Sixers, as former coach Doug Collins once famously said, "couldn't hit a bull in the ass with a handful of rice." Translation for my non-farming friends: they couldn't make a shot. In that Heat game, the Sixers shot 19.4 percent (7 for 36) from three point range. Against Boston, they shot 19.2 percent (5 for 26). Overall, the Sixers shot 41.7 percent from the field against Miami and 42.2 percent against Boston in the respective games.
Robert Covington and J.J. Redick shot a combined 2 for 16 from three in the Heat defeat and were 2 for 11 in Boston. For the record, Redick played a much better game than Covington, who was horrendous on both ends.
Where old man Dwyane Wade was a one-man wrecking crew, dropping 28 in that Heat win, the Celtics' trio of Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford combined for 83 of Boston's 117 points. The Sixers were still without Joel Embiid due to his orbital injury in Game 2 against the Heat. "The Phantom of the Process" came up big with 31 points and 13 boards on Monday in Boston.
Comparisons aside, the Sixers must get back to being the quality defensive squad they were most of the season. Too many wide open looks, bad switches, poor on the ball defense and the questionable strategy of having Redick on Tatum, made things too easy for the "C's" at that end. I don't think Boston will shoot the ball in Game 2 the way they did in Game 1. But a lot of that falls on the adjustments made in the two days in between games and execution by the players. You can't just hope it.
Offensively, I believe the six-day layoff hurt them. But Covington needs to get out of the fog. It can't be five-on-four basketball where's a total non-factor. Ben Simmons must clean up the seven giveaways. The Sixers are a team that is dependent on bench scoring. They got 17 total points Monday from the reserves. The Celtics did a great job making life hard on Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. The duo went 5 for 18 from the floor. And simply put, they need to make shots as a team. The Sixers are a team that has to make their threes to have success.
After that bad performance in Game 2 of the quarterfinals, the Sixers bounced back to shoot nearly 53 percent from three and 51 percent overall in Game 3 of the Heat series. Make no mistake, Boston is a huge step up in class from Miami so there is only so much you can draw from that series, but the Sixers have been a resilient bunch all year and are much better than what we saw in Game 1.