By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer
The Philadelphia 76ers, with their backs to the wall in Game 6, failed to perform and earn a Game 7 back down in Miami. The Heat took care of the Sixers in relatively easy fashion on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, disposing of them 99-90 in Game 6.
Jimmy Butler powered the Heat with another great performance, finishing with 32 points and eight rebounds.
Joel Embiid finished with 20 points while grabbing 12 rebounds for the Sixers. James Harden, who was brought in mid-season to help push the Sixers over the top, finished with just 11 points and nine assists while turning the ball over four times.
The Sixers were outplayed in every facet of the game from their intensity and energy level to controlling the basketball and shooting well from three-point range. It was a disappointing way to end the season for the Sixers.
The Sixers have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2001. Here are three observations from the season-ending loss to the Heat in Game 6:
Sixers' lack of wing depth exposed
The Heat opened up the game on a 7-0 run after baskets from Butler, Strus and Gabe Vincent. The Sixers answered with a 7-0 run of their own, beginning with a three from Danny Green. A few plays later, Green went down after Embiid landed on his leg following an off-balance layup. The injury did not look good, and it caused Green to miss the remainder of the game. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, there is "significant concern on the severity" of Green's knee injury.
The injury forced the Sixers to dig deeper into their already poor wing depth. Matisse Thybulle got the first crack at receiving the minutes. He made a few plays early on, including an and-one dunk to tie it at 16 midway through the first quarter followed by blocking a shot from Butler. However, the Heat took advantage of his offensive weaknesses by ignoring him on that end of the floor. He also picked up two early fouls, forcing the Sixers to dig deeper into their bench.
The Sixers also briefly put Furkan Korkmaz on the floor to begin the second quarter. He put together an uneventful eight minutes on the floor, failing to produce in any facet of the game.
Georges Niang, normally a semi-reliable player off the bench, also struggled in Game 6. He has been hampered by a nagging knee injury resulting in his already slow foot speed becoming slower. If he is not hitting his threes, and he has not throughout this postseason, he is a liability on both ends of the floor.
The Sixers' lack of solid wing depth behind Green was exposed in Game 6. All of Thybulle, Korkmaz and Niang have major areas of weakness that get exposed in the playoffs. The team's depth issue is something which will need to be corrected in the offseason, because they will not be able to win a championship with those kinds of players receiving significant minutes in the playoffs.
Embiid ends season in rough fashion
After scoring just 17 points on 12 shots in the loss in Game 5, Embiid came out and played with more aggression for the Sixers. He took 14 shots in the first half, but his shooting efficiency was poor. Outside of knocking down a pair of threes, he lacked his usual touch on his jumpers.
Playing through multiple injuries (orbital fracture, torn ligament in his shooting hand), it was clear he was laboring out on the floor. He went down briefly after landing hard on his back with 6:39 left in the second quarter, and he found himself down on the court multiple times throughout the night.
He was unable to really get going at any point offensively. The Heat brought double or triple teams to him nearly every time he got the ball. He did not do a good job establishing post position in Game 6, often getting the ball either at the top of the key or at the elbow.
After another fantastic season from Embiid, it all came crashing down around him in the playoffs. With him entering his prime years, the Sixers need to do a much better job taking advantage of his talents and building the roster around him moving forward.
Sixers fall apart in second half
Despite a poor first half performance, the Sixers went into halftime down by only one point and very much with a chance to force a Game 7. However, as has become common throughout this series, the Sixers completely fell apart in the second half.
The Sixers' offense went stagnant and ice cold, and the Heat came out with a quick start. After a Butler basket opened up the Miami lead to 58-50 with 9:23 remaining, head coach Doc Rivers called a timeout. Things did not get better from there. The Heat went on to blow open the game, beginning the second half with a 19-4 run.
From that point on, the Sixers lacked energy and, outside of a few brief moments, did not make much of an effort to get back in the game. Harden put together a good first half, scoring 11 points and drilling three of his four attempts from beyond the arc. However, he took just two shots as he completely disappeared in the second half. His future with the Sixers will be something much discussed throughout this offseason.
Shake Milton, one of the only Sixers' bench players who produced in Game 6, provided a brief spurt of energy by scoring seven quick points for the Sixers late in the third quarter. He finished the game with 15 points on efficient 6-of-8 shooting from the field.
The Sixers, especially after falling behind 2-0 in the series as Embiid recovered from a concussion, knew they were going to have to play at a near perfect level the remainder of the series in order to have a chance. Over the final two games of the series, they did not show up at all, providing a disappointing end to their season.