Monday, May 9, 2022

Series tie: Sixers leader says ‘little more pressure’ on Miami Heat

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Lock it up and leave it. Lock it up and leave it. Those were the words from Danny Green’s mouth following the Philadelphia 76ers’ 116-108 Game 4 win. The Eastern Conference Semifinals are now tied 2-2 thanks to the return of Joel Embiid and Green’s sudden onslaught of fire.

The three-time NBA champion was stone cold to start the series, going 2-on-14 from the 3-point line in Game 1 and Game 2 for a total of 8 points. But Green got his groove back in Game 3 along with his silky sweater. He went 3-on-4 from the deep for 11 points in Game 4, two nights after going 7-on-9 for 21 points.

It’s safe to say Green’s shot is back. Ditto for his championship lead. TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal asked him which team is under more pressure now that the series is a tie. Green initially shrugged off the question, saying “that’s not really what we’re focusing on,” then admitting there’s probably “a little more pressure” on Miami.

“I mean, we don’t really focus on that.” said Green to O’Neal on the TNT post-game show. “We try to focus on what we have to do. I think the pressure is the same now. It’s 0-0. So it’s the first of two. But I will continue to follow your advice on shooting, make sure you complete it and leave it. The last one I missed I didn’t finish and left and glued it.

“We know we’re coming into this building [FTX Arena in Miami]they maybe have a little more pressure on them because they are at home but it’s not a series until someone wins away but they have home advantage so we have to put some pressure on them and try to get a win in their building. “

The “lock it and leave it” part refers to the shooting advice given by O’Neal Green. Essentially, it means don’t be afraid to let the ball fly: shoot it with no apologies – lock your hands, take the shot, live with the result. Lock it up and leave it.

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Above all, Jimmy Butler put on a show in the third quarter when he scored 17 points. The ex-six finished with 40 points in 42 minutes, six assists and three rebounds. He went 13-for-20 off the field (2-of-6 from deep) while going 12-for-13 from the foul line.

Butler single-handedly kept the Heat in contention, scoring against Embiid with Bam Adebayo in foul trouble. Miami had to go to a small ball lineup: Butler, Oladipo, Vincent, Herro, Tucker. It does not matter. Butler attacked the 7-footer in the paint, didn’t back down, and slipped past Embiid for a big and an opportunity.

“Jo is a damn good player, that’s my type too. But I’m not afraid of him either.” Butler told reporters. “I don’t think that’s anyone. In this duel, no one is afraid of anyone, so I will attack him like I attack anyone else. I like that. He takes on that challenge, as MVP, as the best player on the team, that’s what he’s supposed to do.”

If Jimmy Butler took over the third quarter, then James Harden owned the fourth. The Sixers star exploded for 16 points in the last frame, including four dagger triples to seal the deal. After the game, Harden looked sheepishly at the cameras and said the obvious.

“I just took what the defense gave me” Harden told reporters. “Same recordings, only made some [tonight]nothing has really changed.”

Harden went 6-on-10 from the 3-point line in Game 4. Before that, he had gone 4-on-19 in the first three contests. He also finished with 31 points, the most for him since losing 32 points in Milwaukee on March 29. This was the classic Harden performance that Sixers fans had been waiting for.

“I took a couple of shots, obviously that’s a game changer,” Harden said, “but just being aggressive and in the fourth quarter I think the group that started the fourth quarter did a really good job of that.” Bringing leadership up and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

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