The Sixers were up 51-50 at halftime of Game 1 in Miami. Then it turned into a blowout. The Heat hit seemingly every shot, while the Sixers went 6-of-34 from deep and looked completely discombobulated on offense. Every player has to be better in Game 2 (well, except for Tobias Harris maybe), but who has the most room to improve?
James Harden is probably the easy answer here, but I’m not going to pick him. To borrow a famous Ben Simmons quote, Harden is who he is. He is older than he once was, he is probably still not 100 percent with the hamstring, and he will probably be the same high-level facilitator and mid-level scorer all series. He looked great in the first half of Game 1, frankly — his teammates just let him down in the end when they decided to go 6-of-34 from deep.
Here’s who the Sixers need more from.
Sixers who have to improve vs. Heat in Game 2: Georges Niang
Georges Niang went 0-of-7 from the floor on Monday, with all seven shots coming from beyond the arc. Obviously that needs to improve. If the Sixers’ shooters aren’t hitting shots, this new “fast-paced” offense built around Harden just won’t do much. Philadelphia generated good looks and couldn’t covert, which was a primary reason for Monday’s sour defeat.
Moreover, Niang was absolutely unplayable on the defensive end Monday night, but due to Philadelphia’s complete dearth of quality depth, he still had to play 21 minutes. He’s too slow to recover when he’s beaten backdoor, and the Heat have a long of strong athletes who can straight-up punish him off the dribble. Niang was also beaten time and time again on the boards. Philly isn’t going to win the rebounding battle without Embiid, but Niang has to put up more of a fight.
It’s pretty concerning that Philadelphia’s best bench player all season probably isn’t cut out for postseason basketball. The Raptors weren’t a good enough offensive team to ultimately make Philadelphia pay for its shortcomings, but the Heat are. We’ll see if Embiid returns in Game 3 or Game 4, but the series could very well be over if the Sixers don’t get better contributions from the supporting cast. It starts with Niang.