Miami Heat

Playoff intensity breeds mutual respect. In the Sixers' eyes, the Heat has theirs.

Miami Heat's Josh Richardson, right, defends Philadelphia 76ers' Marco Belinelli during the second half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, April 19, 2018, in Miami. The 76ers won 128-108. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Miami Heat's Josh Richardson, right, defends Philadelphia 76ers' Marco Belinelli during the second half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, April 19, 2018, in Miami. The 76ers won 128-108. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Skirmishes have been broken up before they could escalate.

Blood has been spilled.

And injuries have been suffered during the heat of battle.

A physical four-game stretch in the playoffs like the one the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers has played so far can often produce hatred on each side.

But as the Sixers got up Tuesday morning to get ready to try to end the series in Game 5 later that night, they expressed their respect for their postseason nemesis.

“Of course we respect them, and they deserve that respect,” Sixers forward Dario Saric said before the team’s shootaround. “But our goal is to step up and take that win.”

While the Heat might stand on the brink of elimination, it has been a heated series for the most part with a number of tense on-court tussles such as the recent sequence in Game 4 with five minutes left in the second quarter that left Justise Winslow with a cut over his eye and Josh Richardson with a sprained shoulder.

On that play, Goran Dragic stole the ball from Saric, which led to a flurry of players diving to the floor to gain possession.

Saric mentioned Dragic among several players he maintains a great amount of respect for on the Heat including Dwyane Wade.

Dragic is leading the Heat in scoring in the playoffs (19.5 points per game) just as he did during the regular season (17.3 ppg) and he’s shooting at a higher percentage (49.2 percent) from the field and three-point range (40.0) than he did in the regular season.

Wade had another strong finish with 12 points and nearly staved off Philadelphia’s comeback. Wade also had a 15-point fourth quarter in the Heat’s first of two regular-season wins in Miami.

“You always respect Dwyane Wade. He’s played on so many teams from Olympics to NBA championship teams. He’s positioned to be one of the best in history. Goran Dragic is playing amazing. You also have Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Whiteside. I don’t want to skip anyone. They play their system and play an almost 24-second offense and of course we respect them.”

Robert Covington, who led the NBA in total deflections (312) and deflections per game (3.9), praised the way Josh Richardson has guarded him and his teammates during the series.

Richardson’s 11 total steals in these playoffs rank second only to John Wall (12) among any player in the playoffs, and he is second in deflections with 19 behind Wall’s 24.

Richardson, who set a Heat playoff record for steals with seven in Game 4, has held the Sixers’ guards to 30.6 percent shooting (15 of 49).

“It’s just his hands,” Covington said about the key to Richardson’s excellent defensive skill. “He’s guarded me and different guys on this team and not a lot of people can do that in this league. Him having the demeanor to take on that challenge is similar to me so that’s why I have respect for him just based on the way he gets the job done. He’s one of those guys that can do the little things on both sides and he can make his team better.”

Covington said facing a physical Heat team that’s pushed them throughout the series has galvanized their team.

“Everyone stepped up to the challenge,” Covington said. “The grit everybody showed in those games in Miami. They say that playoff experience, if you haven’t been in it before you don’t know how you’ll react, but this team reacted in the right way and everybody had each other’s backs.

"It shows this is more than just a young team. We have each other’s back and this is a team that’s going to stay together.”

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