MIAMI – Brett Brown talked like Game 4 is going to be a prize fight.
The 76ers coach said there's a bigger issue in Saturday afternoon's Eastern Conference quarterfinal than trying to defend Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic on a certain play. It's bigger than finding a way to space the floor behind Joel Embiid.
"There is a complete overarching sort of feeling and trying to get ahead of the story," Brown said. "We know what (Saturday) is going to look like physically."
Playing a part in four NBA championship runs as a San Antonio Spurs assistant coach helps him predict how the contest at AmericanAirlines Arena is going to be played.
So he wants to make sure his squad welcomes that style of play and handles it with maturity.
"There's a physical style of play that this game will be played with, by and [officiated] by tomorrow," Brown said on Friday. "That … to me is a complete reality. We know what (Saturday) is going to look like."
The Sixers lead two games to one in the best-of-seven series. A victory on Saturday would put them in position to clinch the series on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center. As a result, one would imagine that the Heat will try to disrupt the Sixers by taking their physicality up a notch.
That's what Miami did in Game 2 after losing the opener. The Heat were physical, again, Thursday night. But the Sixers responded in a game marred by six technical fouls and the Heat's Dwyane Wade throwing Justin Anderson of the Sixers over the baseline and out of bounds. And when the goggles popped off Joel Embiid's face mask and fell to the hardwood, Miami's Justise Winslow appeared to intentionally step on them. Winslow, after picking up the goggles, tried to break them with his hands. Winslow was fined $15,000 for his actions.
"My history in this league and my experience in the playoffs says it's only going to get more [physical]," Brown said. "We all know what we think [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] would be telling his team, what I would be telling my team if we lost at home. … We all know this and we all get what's about to happen."
So, on Friday, Brown stressed to his players playing through it and continuing to keep their turnovers down.
The Sixers are far from intimidated.
"That's what I live for, finding these type of moments," Embiid said. "The intensity, after watching Game 2, I felt like that's where the team needed me the most."
The all-star returned Thursday after missing 10 games due to suffering a fractured right orbital bone near his left eye on March 28. He finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Embiid feels like he's one of the most physical players in the league.
"I love contact," he said. "I love attacking. I love going to the free-throw line.
'We just got to go come in (Saturday) and try to punch them in the mouth early and you know I think the series is going to be different."
For the Sixers, the series also serves as a statement that they won't be pushed around. They're serving notice to opposing teams that they'll fight back and will come back harder if provoked.
"We got a lot of tough guys on the team," Embiid said.
He mentioned Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, and JJ Redick for their toughness. Embiid also called Dario Saric as one of the toughest people he's ever been around.
"Everybody is tough," he said, "and everybody wants to compete."
He just thinks the Sixers were caught off guard with the Heat's physicality in Game 2. In regards to Thursday, Embiid feels the Sixers were more physical than Miami.
"Tomorrow is going to be different story," Embiid said on Friday. "We've just got to be more physical and move the ball and we are going to be fine."
Asked how he would account for the Heat's expected increased physicality in Game 4, Simmons responded: "Throw it back at them. I'm not worried about that. I can hold my own. I know everybody on my team can hold their own."