Instant Observations: Sixers Lose to Heat in Another Close One

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) drives against Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers lost another nail-biter, this time falling to the Miami Heat 101-99 on Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Joel Embiid finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds, but his overall performance was not as good as the numbers show on paper. Tyrese Maxey had 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting. James Harden added in 20 points, six rebounds and 12 assists. Dewayne Dedmon missed his third consecutive game with left hip soreness.

The Heat were without Kyle Lowry (left knee soreness), Omer Yurtseven (left ankle surgery) and Nikola Jovic (lower back stress reaction) were all out of the lineup. Jimmy Butler led Miami with 23 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

The Sixers now sit at 39-21 on the season. A rematch against the Heat is up next on Wednesday. Here are some observations from the loss:

First Quarter:

  • A familiar issue for the Sixers showed up once again: Poor rebounding. Butler pulled down a Tyler Herro missed jumper and dished it to Philly killer Gabe Vincent for a 3-pointer with 9:06 left in the first quarter. That play proved to be a sign of things to come. Butler finished the first quarter with seven points, four rebounds (three offensive) and five assists. The Heat dominated the boards in the first quarter, winning the rebounding battle 18-8 and 8-0 on the offensive glass. Miami scored nine second-chance points in the opening quarter. The Sixers must figure out how to resolve or limit this glaring concern before the playoffs arrive.
  • Harden’s strong start salvaged the Sixers’ otherwise brutal start to the game. He dished out an assist on a De’Anthony Melton 3-pointer to get the scoring started. He then carved through Miami’s interior defense on consecutive possessions, drawing a foul and finishing at the rim. His improved explosiveness has helped him to revive his ability to score around the rim this season. He scored eight points in the first quarter, but the Sixers still went into the second quarter down 28-22.

Second Quarter:

  • To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Sixers continued to use an all-bench lineup or the Harden-led bench lineup to disastrous results. The full bench lineup did not come onto the floor until the 1:11 mark of the first quarter. Asking Maxey, who has been ice cold in recent weeks, to anchor the second unit is futile and doing him no favors. His lone bucket in the first half came on a fluky 3-pointer off of one foot. With Melton struggling and Maxey’s history of playing well next to both Harden and Embiid, it is time to reinsert Maxey into the starting lineup.
  • Georges Niang has proven to be one of the Sixers’ top reserve players. His outside shooting is a major plus, but he does not provide much offensively outside of that. He has lost his touch from beyond the arc in recent weeks, shooting 28.6% from deep in the month of February (as of before the game against Miami). A bigger, but perhaps predictable, issue for Niang is his poor defense. The Heat attacked him defensively, driving past him with ease. Kevin Love, certainly not fleet of foot at this point in his career, drove past him for a layup in the first half. Niang is a liability defensively and teams will attack him relentlessly in the postseason. For him to be a useful player when games truly matter, he will have to be hitting his 3-pointers at a high enough clip to counteract his defensive weaknesses. He finished the game with two points and a rebound while being a minus-12 in seven minutes.
  • The Sixers kept the game within striking distance throughout the second quarter, but they kept getting in their own way. Turnovers were a big issue. They committed four turnovers in a two-minute stretch of action midway through the quarter and went into halftime committing 11 turnovers. Embiid particularly struggled to control the basketball, committing six turnovers overall on the night. The Heat are one of the better defenses in the league, but most of the Sixers’ turnovers were just careless. Miami held a 58-50 lead heading into halftime.

Third Quarter:

  • Embiid, who scored 10 points in the second quarter, carried over his hot play into the second half. He scored a trio of layups, with the last one coming while getting fouled by Love. However, he was in foul trouble, committing his fourth with 6:49 left in the third quarter. Around a minute later, he checked out of the game for Paul Reed. This game was not one of Embiid’s better performances defensively. He played with no urgency, and the rest of the team took after him.
  • Rivers tweaked the rotations coming out of halftime. Maxey checked into the game for Melton with 7:52 remaining in the quarter. He played the next few minutes, before Embiid had to exit due to foul trouble, with the rest of the starters. It did not take long for him to get in rhythm. Within the next few minutes, he knocked down a finger-roll layup and a floater. That was only the beginning. He connected on a pair of 3-pointers and a dunk after driving down the baseline. His 14 points in the third quarter was a huge reason why the Sixers stayed in the game. It was good to see Maxey find his footing. This was the kind of performance the team needs from Maxey on a consistent basis.
  • Despite Maxey’s big quarter, the Sixers still went into the fourth quarter down 84-80. Turnovers remained an issue for them as they committed five in the quarter. Miami also had it going from beyond the arc. The Heat shot 40.5% from 3-point range on the night.

Fourth Quarter:

  • Miami began the quarter on a 10-3 run. The Sixers went on a field goal drought over the first five minutes of the quarter. Embiid ended the drought with a mid-range jumper to start a 12-3 Sixers run. However, Maxey fouled out with 3:21 remaining, leaving the Sixers without one of the players who was largely responsible for keeping them in the game. The Sixers took a 99-98 lead on a pair of Harden free throws with 1:41 left. Butler responded with a terrific reverse layup through traffic that gave the Heat the lead for good. The Sixers, coming out of a timeout, got Harden a decent look from beyond the arc but the shot did not fall.
  • The Sixers were fortunate to keep the game close. They sleepwalked for much of the first half, but the Heat often failed to take advantage. The trio of Embiid, Harden and Maxey did just enough to nearly get the Sixers the victory. In the end, the team’s 20 turnovers and poor defense of the 3-point line proved to cost them.