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Don’t lose sight of Miami Heat losses – it’s still their winning streak – The Denver Post

Let’s stick with perspective: Philadelphia, as a throwback piece, is a hot story. A trending story. Joel Embiid, absent the first two games, returned to modify this playoff series against the Miami Heat the last two games.

James Harden was getting older and bigger before our eyes before scoring 31 points in Philadelphia’s Game 4 win on Sunday night. Philadelphia could be the first team, “in its storied history”, as the TNT broadcast has repeatedly said, to come back from a 0-2 deficit to win a series.

So, it’s a searing story in the sense that if you put your ear to the ground, you can feel vibrations in the distance, a deep, thundering sound of momentum.

“You know how quickly that can change?” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

OK, he was talking about his players’ wayward 3-point shooting, not the streak. But the two are linked.

“We have so many flammable guys,” he said.

He mentioned Tyler Herro, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson…

“We see a couple of them fall, it can turn into four, five, six” – he snapped his fingers – “like that.”

Want a step back? It’s not there in the intangibles or Philadelphia’s last two wins. It’s right there in the building numbers. The Heat have shot 21.5% on 3-point range in the last two games in Philadelphia after shooting 35.4% at home in the first two games.

Philadelphia was the reverse. They shot 21.9% on 3-pointers in the first two games in Miami and 48.5% in their home games.

So it’s a 2-2 series with an advantage for the Heat. Such an advantage can be measured since Embiid missed both games in Miami. But as irrelevant as the NBA regular season seems to be going, it’s why the Heat are chasing this playoff seed so hard.

For that extra home game in this series. This game alone. That may also be the difference here. This is the perspective to keep in a series that has become as tough and tense as expected.

The Heat were struggling throughout Sunday’s loss. Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker were at fault. Kyle Lowry’s recalcitrant hamstrings have again acted in a way that suggests he won’t be a factor in this series.

The Heat were so short of big men Markieff Morris made his first appearance this postseason and had a shot blocked by Embiid that sent Morris reeling all the way to the ball.

The talented size is Heat’s Kryptonite. Milwaukee showed it in the last playoffs. Embiid will try again in what has become a best two out of three series.

But despite all of the Heat’s problems on Sunday night, they were there to steal the game. This is partly the normal course of an NBA game. It’s also partly the Heat’s perpetual ability to never quit.

A big part was also Jimmy Butler. He had 40 points. He would return to Philadelphia whenever the game seemed about to be over.

“We were knocking on the door,” Spoelstra said. “I just felt the last five minutes they had a handful of possessions that went down to the (timer) and they made big shots. We were defending 24 seconds, 23 seconds, 22 seconds – and they hit a big one.

Does Harden have another game like this with Embiid back? Can Butler carry the Heat like this again, if necessary?

“There is a small margin of error on both sides,” Spoelstra said.

The accepted rule in the NBA is that the pitch matters to the players. Well, other than Butler for the Heat and Embiid for Philadelphia, they’re all players at this point. Even Adebayo and Harden defined themselves as such.

Great regular season stories like Max Strus and Gabe Vincent have been relegated almost to viewers for much of this series. Victor Oladipo has grown in prominence simply because talent matters the further you advance in the playoffs.

And Duncan Robinson? Does his 3-point shot get him off the Siberian bench? The Heat bench is deeper than Philadelphia. But the Philadelphia bench was more productive on Sunday, 19 points to 15.

“I need to go to the movie and see what’s real and what’s emotional,” Spoelstra said.

“We’re a long way from playing our best basketball, it’s encouraging,” Embiid said.

The prospect is not lost because of the last two games. It’s a three-game series with the Heat at home for two, if necessary. The pressure is still on Philadelphia, trending as the story is.

The Heat need some of those flammable players mentioned by Spoelstra to ignite in Game 5 on Tuesday. But everything changes now overnight. Or a player. Or a hit. Or being the No. 1 seed will seem as irrelevant as other teams have treated it.


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