Following an exhilarating back-and-forth battle featuring 17 lead changes, the Philadelphia 76ers head back to FTX Arena to take on the Miami Heat for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. So far each team playing in their home arena has won the game in this series, which could help swing NBA betting lines in the Heat’s favor.
Yet there are several other factors than simply having home-field advantage to watch for once Tuesday’s game tips off. Here are just a few keys to be aware of heading into the game.
Which Version of James Harden Shows Up?
Before the fourth quarter of Game 4, James Harden had been having a rough playoff series against the Heat. In Games 1, 2 and 3, Harden scored just 16, 20, and 17 points. To be fair, Joel Embiid missed the first two games due to a fractured orbital bone, but that should have only opened up more shots and opportunities for Harden to take over. It didn’t happen.
Everything changed in the final frame of Game 4, when Harden suddenly erupted for 16 points in the quarter, hitting four three-point shots. Harden finished with a team-high 31 points, adding nine assists and seven rebounds.
James Harden turned up the scoring in the fourth, scoring 16 points and knocking down 4 CLUTCH 3s to lead the @sixers to the Game 4 win to tie the series 2-2!
🔔 Game 5: Tue. 7:30pm/et on TNT 🔔 pic.twitter.com/CuoT5RbDvS
— NBA (@NBA) May 9, 2022
For once, we saw a player other than Embiid or Tyrese Maxey take over the game for the Sixers; the more Embiid plays, the more comfortable he’ll feel with his mask, as coach Doc Rivers noted. If the 76ers can come together as a team for the next few games, however many it takes, they just might be able to keep up the momentum after winning the last two contests.
Will Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo Get Any Help?
Like Tyrese Maxey in the first two games of the series, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo didn’t see much help from their teammates in Game 4. Despite having one of the best bench units in the NBA during the regular season, the reserves largely disappeared, adding just 19 points to the scoreboard. This was a far cry from earlier games in the series when the Heat were at their best, (and their NBA championship odds could be in jeopardy if things don’t change).
Jimmy Butler in the Heat's last 2 losses to the Sixers:
33 PTS – 9 REBS – 2 ASTS – 55% FG
40 PTS – 3 REBS – 6 ASTS – 65% FG pic.twitter.com/XAD7Q6KgOo
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 9, 2022
Fans witnessed Butler and Adebayo drop a combined 61 points, or 56% of the team’s points, in Game 4. In their Game 3 loss, the two combined for 53% of the Heat’s tally. Both games were losses.
Meanwhile, in Game 1, Tyler Herro was actually the team’s leading scorer despite the Sixth Man of the Year winner coming off the bench in his typical role. The team’s two All-Stars combined for 36% of the team’s total in this win.
This is a similar outcome to Game 2 when Butler and Adebayo combined to score 38% of the Heat’s 119 points, another win.
Essentially, the key to victory for the team in South Beach, who will be at home for Game 5, is getting other players involved and hopefully getting stronger contributions from the bench unit. We know the 76ers are only now rounding back into form. If coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat are intent on getting back to the NBA Finals as they did during the 2019-20 season, they’ll need a more complete game from the entire rotation as we saw more of during Games 1 and 2.
Playing at home with the energy of the local fanbase, they just might be able to turn the tides around in Game 5 on Tuesday night.