The Miami Heat is on the brink of elimination.
Despite another gutsy performance from Dwyane Wade and a much better defensive effort by Miami guarding the three-point line, the Philadelphia 76ers left AmericanAirlines Arena Saturday with a 106-102 victory and a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
Wade, the hero of the Heat’s Game 2 victory with 28 points, scored 12 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Sixers’ dominance on the glass (Philadelphia outrebounded Miami 57-43) or Miami’s rough night at the foul line (the Heat missed 12 of its 25 attempts).
"We all feel that we're this close," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team held the Sixers to 42.9 percent shooting, 7 of 31 from three-point range and forced 27 turnovers. "That's what makes this game tough. They made bigger plays than us in the fourth quarter. We played really good basketball through most of the game, but we've had a tough time finishing games against Philadelphia and that's been the issue."
Miami led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter before the Sixers closed the period on a 6-0 run and then opened the fourth quarter by scoring the first eight points to take an 87-83 lead. Wade finally ended Philadelphia’s 14-0 run with a jumper with 8:12 remaining. He ended up scoring 12 of the Heat’s 19 points in the final period.
But Miami couldn't get enough stops down the stretch and now faces the prospect of having its season come to an end without another road victory in Philadelphia Tuesday night.
"To me the thing that most stood out was we flipped our whole discipline in the fourth period," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "We guarded, we stayed way more with our rules and our game plan than we did in the first three periods. The fact you can win a playoff game with this volume of turnovers is mind-boggling.
"I'm shocked we won this game. I'm shocked that we won this game. We really didn't have a right to win the game."
JJ Redick, who scored the final four points for the Sixers, including the game-sealing free throws with 16 seconds left, led Philly with 24 points. The Sixers finished 27 of 35 from the line.
Ben Simmons, who threw down a backbreaking dunk after Miami had cut Philly's lead to 100-99 on a Wade layup, recorded the first playoff triple-double by a rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980 with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. All-Star center Joel Embiid had 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
"I think we did a great job of coming back, staying poised," Simmons said. "[The triple-double] just means I'm doing my job. My stats all season have been up there. It's not nothing new for the team or myself."
Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who had played no more than 15 minutes in any of the first three games, had 13 points, 13 rebounds and a block in 26 minutes.
"He responded in a great way," Spoelstra said of Whiteside. "These are opportunities to grow, to develop your competitive character. The only way to do that is to be in there. I was really encouraged the way he responded to everything in the last week."
Goran Dragic scored 20 points, but missed all three shots he took in the fourth quarter and didn’t score in the period.
After lighting the Heat up with 18 three-pointers in its Game 3 win, Philadelphia was only 7 of 31 from beyond the arc Saturday and turned it over 27 times.
The Sixers, who led the league in turnovers (16.5) in the regular season, had played a clean series until Saturday, averaging 12.7 turnovers per game and no more than the 14 it had in Game 2. But by halftime of Game 4, the Sixers had 17, which led directly to 20 points for Miami.
One of the more memorable ones came late in the half when Dragic ripped the ball clean out of Embiid's hands after the Sixers center had grabbed a defensive rebound. Moments later, a fired up Dragic cruised in for his first dunk of the season.
Saturday's game was physical from start to finish.
Justise Winslow needed four stitches over his left eye to close a gash. Josh Richardson, who set a new Heat playoff record with seven steals, sustained a left shouder contusion diving for a loose ball.
Tempers flared with 4:27 left in the first half after Dragic was fouled by Ben Simmons on a fast break and then shoved by Robert Covington on his way to the basket. James Johnson, who was trailing on the play, immediately grabbed Covington and shoved him up against the padded stanchion under the basket.
Simmons then grabbed Johnson, who immediately got in his face and the two began arguing before being separated. Covington and Johnson were each given technical fouls and Simmons was charged with a common foul. Later, Whiteside and Dario Saric each received technical fouls for exchanging words with 5:29 left in the third quarter.
Now, Game 5 awaits in Philly.
"The atmosphere in Philly is going to be ridiculous," Covington said. "I can't speak for the amount of joy the city has based on what's happened. We're ready to give them a show."