By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer
The Philadelphia 76ers dropped Game 2 in convincing fashion to the Miami Heat, 119-103, on Wednesday night and now find themselves down 2-0 in the series. The Sixers continue to struggle without Joel Embiid, who missed his second consecutive game with an orbital fracture and concussion.
The Heat, who were again without Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain), were led by Bam Adebayo who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds. Jimmy Butler added in 22 points, six rebounds and 12 assists. The Heat shot 48.3 percent from beyond the arc.
For the Sixers, Tyrese Maxey led with 34 points on 12-of-22 shooting. James Harden finished with 20 points while dishing out nine assists. Tobias Harris quietly added in 21 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Game 3 will be on Friday at 7:00 p.m. in Philadelphia. Here are three observations from the Game 2 loss to the Heat:
Center minutes do not hurt Sixers as much as in Game 1
DeAndre Jordan, as head coach Doc Rivers said after Game 1, once again received the start at center. Unlike Game 1, the Sixers did not fall into an early hole with Jordan out on the floor. The Sixers made more of a concerted effort to keep the big man more involved in the offense early on by tossing him multiple lobs.
However, Jordan remained a defensive liability. The Heat attacked him relentlessly with both pick-and-rolls and dribble hand-offs. They got him out in space where they could take advantage of his lack of mobility. He played drop coverage on the Heat's second possession of the game, giving up an easy mid-range jumper to Butler. A few possessions later, he stepped up on Butler's drive and allowed Bam Adebayo to cut in behind for a wide open dunk. Pick-and-roll defense is always going to be an adventure with Jordan on the floor.
Jordan, outside of playing the first few minutes out of halftime, did not play much in the second half. While his defense was definitely a struggle, his minutes were overall a step improved from the disaster they were in Game 1. He finished with six points and five rebounds in 13 minutes.
The Paul Reed minutes were uneventful in Game 2. He played a quieter, less aggressive style of basketball in an attempt to not get into his usual foul trouble. He played 25 minutes and ended with four points, four rebounds, one steal and two blocks. Most importantly, he committed only two fouls.
The Sixers also continued to throw in some small ball lineups. They found some success with the small-ball lineup in the final few minutes of the first half. They outscored the Heat 14-8 in the final 5:01 of the first half. The small-ball lineup allows the Sixers to push the pace a bit to fluster Miami's defense and is something the team should look to continue to go to as long as Embiid remains out of the lineup.
Sixers' offense led by backcourt duo
Harden again got off to a slow start shooting the basketball, connecting on just one of his first five shots from the field. However, he picked things up in the second quarter, scoring 12 points to help keep the Sixers afloat.
Miami continued to throw a bunch of different looks at Harden defensively, but it was clear he was going to make a more concerted effort to be aggressive in Game 2. He had multiple good contested finishes at the rim while continuing to do a good job facilitating for others.
The Heat were constantly sending double teams, and even triple teams sometimes, at Harden and the Sixers' shooters continued to not make them pay. Miami also was able to successfully mix in some zone defense and, while the Sixers got some good looks, the shots were not falling.
Harden took a backseat to Maxey for much of the second half. The 21-year old continued to shine in the playoffs, using his quickness to attack downhill and in transition whenever the opportunity presented itself. He scored 23 of his points on 7-of-11 shooting in the second half. The Heat mostly do a good job of clogging up the driving lanes, but Maxey's speed and quick first step allow him to gain the advantage in most one-on-one matchups out on the perimeter.
The backcourt duo's success proved just enough for the Sixers to stick around for most of the game. However, they were never really able to get the score close.
Poor shooting, depth issues continue to plague the Sixers
The Sixers shot 17.6 percent from three-point range in Game 1. There was likely to be some positive regression for surely they could not shoot that bad in two consecutive games. Well, Game 2 proved otherwise. The team shot slightly better, hitting on 26.7 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc.
A lot of the shots were of decent quality, but right now players like Georges Niang and Danny Green simply cannot buy a make. The duo combined to shoot 2 of 12 from three-point range in Game 2 and are shooting 3 of 24 from beyond the arc so far this series.
Without Embiid in the lineup, the Sixers are forced to dig deeper into their rotations. While the Heat have Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo coming off the bench and wreaking havoc, the Sixers have Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle. After the team's poor shooting in Game 1, it made some sense to give Korkmaz a bigger role in the rotation. He made a few nice plays, finishing with eight points and a team-leading six rebounds, but is generally outmatched in the playoffs. The Heat, specifically Butler on multiple occasions in the second half, attacked and took advantage of Korkmaz's poor defense.
Thybulle has looked completely lost out on the floor both thus far against Miami and throughout the entirety of the first round series against the Toronto Raptors. Shake Milton is at times capable of being a solid player off the bench, but he was phased out of the rotation in Game 2 as Rivers cut the team's rotation down from 11 players to nine.
The lack of depth is a known issue for the Sixers and was ignored at the trade deadline. Through the first two games of this series, the Heat's bench has outscored the Sixers' bench 94-40. Fixing this major flaw in the roster will certainly be a major priority for the Sixers this coming offseason. For now, they await Embiid's hopeful return to the lineup in Game 3 as the MVP finalist is good enough to help erase or overcome a lot of the team's issues.