He might never be a great shooter.
His scoring might always be inconsistent.
But one thing Justise Winslow can control each night is his effort on the defensive end of the floor.
On Monday, particularly in the Miami Heat's blitzkrieg second quarter, Winslow was the best defensive player on the court.
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His physical, full-court man-to-man might have single-handedly gotten Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons off his game.
And as a result, the Heat head home with a split, and the series' tone changed.
Even though Simmons finished with a respectable stat line Monday — 24 points on 10 of 17 shooting, nine rebounds and eight assists — the Heat won the game with a 34-13 drubbing in the second quarter, when its defense was at its best. The Sixers made just 4 of 21 of their shots in that period; Simmons missed four of his five attempts and was minus-19.
Winslow was everywhere, but one moment stood out beyond all others.
Simmons drove to the hoop, with Winslow tracking his every move. Perhaps out of frustration, Simmons shoved Winslow to the floor with a forearm. Winslow drew the offensive foul and then seemed to curse out the Sixers young phenom, imposing his will but physically and psychologically.
"That’s what we talked about as a team," Dwyane Wade said. "We felt after watching the film, we played Game 1 like a regular season game and tonight was playoff game and Justise led the way with his aggressiveness when he came off the bench, really getting into the ball, getting some fouls, getting bloody, whatever the case may be, it’s the playoffs. You look at the stat sheet and you see 1 for 5, but his impact was way bigger than that and he’s a big reason why I’m sitting up here doing this with a smile on my face because of his defensive mentality and it kind of went over the other guys. That’s what he does. He’s a guy that does multiple things for our team and to make an impact on the game without a lot of scoring, two points, that’s why he was drafted where they drafted him because the seen something in him that a lot of people probably didn’t."
Added forward James Johnson: "If you had a video on me, it would have shown this, putting your prints on the game. That's what it is, putting your prints on the game. He got us all motivated. He got us inspired. He just gave. He just gave, gave, gave. He didn't want nothing in return. He took his open shots, but other than that he was playing solid defense."
Wade is right. Winslow's line — two points, three rebounds — did not reflect how well he played Monday.
The third-year player, who missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, gave the Heat defense an edge and effectiveness it lacked in a 27-point drubbing two nights prior. The Heat limited Philadelphia to 41.7 percent shooting from the floor, including just 7 of 36 from 3-point range.
This didn't just happen. Adjustments were made. Most notably: Instead of sagging of Simmons, daring him to shoot, they rattled him with a bunch of different looks and defenders, preventing him from settling in early.
“I was trying to make a difference," Winslow said. "The way a lot of teams play him, they play him soft because he’s not going to shoot the jump-shot. He’s able to pick apart the defense . Just wanted to make it a little bit tougher on him and make him trust his dribble a little bit more.”
He continued: "I like making statements. … It’s a game I love. Trying to play with a lot of emotion and passion. Not letting it get the most of me. Let it all hang out.”