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3 Observations: Heat Outlast Sixers, Pull Away in Second Half to Take Game 1

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers dropped Game 1 of their second round series against the Miami Heat 106-92 on Monday night down in Miami.

Tyler Herro led the Heat with 25 points and seven assists off the bench. Bam Adebayo added in 24 points and 12 rebounds.

The Sixers were led by a 27-point performance from Tobias Harris. James Harden finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Tyrese Maxey added in 19 points.

Philadelphia was without star center Joel Embiid (right orbital fracture and concussion). Miami was without Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain).

Game 2 will take place on Wednesday night. Here are three observations from the loss in Game 1:

The center minutes without Embiid

Head coach Doc Rivers said after practice on Saturday the Sixers will "play center by committee" while being without Embiid. His words played out, with five different players receiving the center minutes in Game 1 (including Charles Bassey, who played five minutes in garbage time).

DeAndre Jordan received the start and struggled immediately. He caught a few alley-oops, but otherwise his minutes were a complete disaster. He failed to rebound and was at best a non-factor defending the paint. In his first four minutes on the floor, he recorded just two points while turning the ball over twice. By the time he left the floor four minutes into the game, the Sixers were down 15-6.

Paul Reed was next to receive the backup center minutes. He put together an up-and-down performance, playing with a ton of energy but getting into quick foul trouble. He picked up his third foul of the game with 4:39 to go in the second quarter. Despite his foul trouble, he went into halftime with four points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in nine minutes off the bench.

The Sixers also gave Paul Millsap some of the center minutes in the first half. Millsap, who had not stepped onto the court since March 29, played an uneventful six minutes in Game 1. The team threw in some small ball mainly at the end of the first half and had a bit of success. Georges Niang might have struggled offensively (he missed all seven of his attempts from three-point range), but he did not make many mistakes defensively and generally did an alright job playing as the team's center in small-ball lineups.

After utilizing four different options at center in the first half, things cleared up a bit throughout the remainder of the night. Jordan came back out to start the second half. While Jordan has some size, he simply is no longer playable in the playoffs. He is a liability defensively, especially in the pick-and-roll, and is a poor rebounder. He played 17 minutes, and the results can only be described as grotesque. He was a minus-22 and he pulled down just two rebounds.

Reed might be a very raw player who commits a ton of fouls, but his growing chemistry with Harden combined with a high activity level mean he already is a better option at center than Jordan. Reed did not have a good second half as the Heat attacked him on the defensive glass while continuing to get him into more foul trouble. He would go on to finish with four points, nine rebounds (five on the offensive glass) and four assists while being a minus-3 in 13 minutes off the bench.

Harris leads the Embiid-less offense

After a rough first few minutes on both ends of the floor, the Sixers' offense settled into the flow of the game. Harris and Harden were both attacking and playing aggressively in the first half. He was the team's hot hand in the first half, going into halftime with 14 points. He did a good job getting to his spots and finishing multiple times with a defender close by. He also had a ton of success in the mid-range where he could use his size advantage to get the shot off over some of the smaller Miami defenders.

Harden also did a good job coming out and looking to score early on. He scored 12 points in the first half, although he still at times struggled to get the ball going downhill. The Heat elected to have P.J. Tucker cover Harden for the most of the night. This matchup will certainly be entertaining to watch throughout the series as Harden attempts to handle the pesky, physical style of defense Tucker plays.

The Sixers did a good job using screens to successfully attack mismatches. While Herro had a great game offensively for Miami, the Sixers had success attacking him on the other end of the floor. Both Harris and Harden aggressively hunted mismatches whenever possible.

The Sixers did not put together a good offensive performance in Game 1. Despite a strong night from Harris, the team shot the ball poorly and struggled to control the basketball. They connected on just 17.6 percent of their shots from three-point range while turning the ball over 14 times. There were some flashes of good play at times, but it is not feasible to win in the playoffs with that level of poor shooting.

Heat pull away in the second half

This series is going to be tough for the Sixers as long as Embiid remains sidelined. While things were not perfect by any stretch, the team managed to string together enough good things to head into halftime with a 51-50 lead. However, things were not looking good under the surface.

The Heat quickly began to pull away from the Sixers in the second half. They continued to hit the glass hard, wracking up a ton of offensive rebounds which led to extra possessions and eventually more points. While the Sixers effectively switched over to a zone defense at times in the first half, Miami's shooters began to get hot. The Sixers were down by 10 early in the fourth quarter when Herro nailed a deep three to extend Miami's lead to 13 points.

The closest the Sixers trimmed the deficit after that was 10 points. Miami's depth and energy on the glass (15 offensive rebounds) proved to be too much for the Sixers to keep up with. The Heat outscored the Sixers 56-41 in the second half. Harden, after having a strong first half, faded away and did not prove to be much of a factor in the half-court offense in the second half.

The Sixers have a lot of things they need to improve on after Game 1. However, if they do not receive better efforts from both Harden and Maxey in addition to a continued strong effort from Harris they will find themselves down 2-0 in the series heading back to Philadelphia and Embiid's potential return to the lineup.

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