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April 19, 2011
Playoff Prospectus
Miami's MVP

by Kevin Pelton

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at Miami 94, Philadelphia 73 (Miami leads 2-0
Pace: 85.2
Offensive Ratings: Miami 110.3, Philadelphia 85.6

I never thought I'd appreciate the "M-V-P" chants that have become ubiquitous throughout the league, but you know what? I love the Miami Heat fans at the American Airlines Arena chanting in support of Joel Anthony, a defensive specialist who rarely gets much love. This isn't overexuberance so much as it is a tongue-in-cheek way to honor a player who is having a huge impact on this series.

In Game Two, Erik Spoelstra used Anthony's size and length against Philadelphia 76ers super-sub Thaddeus Young and served to take Young out of the game. Young actually finished with a team-high 18 points, but before he went off for 10 in the last 6:18 of a game long since decided, he had made just three of his 15 shot attempts. Young could get nothing against Anthony in the post, and the Sixers had little more success using him as a screener because of Anthony's ability to move his feet on the perimeter.

The credit and blame for Philadelphia's poor shooting (32.3 percent on two-point attempts) probably deserves to be split about equally. Credit Miami for wonderful help defense against the pick-and-roll. With big men showing hard to keep the ballhandler from turning the corner, the other big had to help down into the paint to cut off the roll man. This resulted in a series of contested shots at the rim that were exactly what the Heat wanted.

At the same time, even when the 76ers did get decent shots, they could not knock them down. Per Hoopdata.com, Philadelphia made less than half of its 24 attempts at the rim. Take out Young (7-of-12 when he did get in close) and the rest of the team shot 4-of-12 on point-blank tries. Contested or no, the Sixers have to do better, and they could relieve some of the defensive pressure by making outside attempts. Alas, with limited three-point threats, Philadelphia is poorly equipped to take advantage of the open jumpers on the weak side Miami's aggressive defense gives up. The Sixers shot well from deep, including an unexpected and encouraging 3-of-3 performance from rookie Evan Turner, but those 14 shot attempts weren't enough to make a dent in their overall offensive inefficiency.

With that kind of defense, the Heat needed only an average night from the Big Three in order to win easily. Dwyane Wade played well enough given he was questionable because of a migraine headache, but Chris Bosh and LeBron James carried the team. Bosh moved his feet well defensively and torched Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young for 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting. All James did was score 29 points and hand out six assists. Ho hum.

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Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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