3 Observations as Maxey, Bench Production Lead Sixers to Improbable Win Over Heat

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers came away with an unexpected 113-106 win over the first-place Miami Heat on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Multiple players stepped up with big performances as the Sixers were without both Joel Embiid (back soreness) and James Harden (left hamstring management) in this second half of their back-to-back. Tyrese Maxey led the team with 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 shooting from three-point range.

The bench stepped up in a big way for the Sixers. Shake Milton scored a season-high 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the field to go with five rebounds and six assists. Furkan Korkmaz added in 18 points and six rebounds.

The Sixers shot the ball well, making 50.0 percent of their shots from the field and 40.5 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. The ball movement was also good, the team finished with 26 assists.

This win was one of the Sixers' better team performances this season, despite it coming without their top two players. The win moves the Sixers to 44-27 and in second place in the Eastern Conference, just 2.5 games behind the Heat. The Sixers begin a West Coast road trip with a late-night affair against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. Here are three observations from the improbable win over the Heat:

Maxey's huge fourth quarter

The lead swung back and forth throughout the game, culminating in the Sixers having a 103-101 lead with 2:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. Maxey was having a solid game up to that point, but he single-handedly took over the game in the final two minutes and powered the Sixers to an extremely unexpected win over the Heat.

He went on a 9-0 run, propelling the Sixers lead from 103-101 to 112-101 with 1:03 remaining. The run began with an and-one, after which he smiled and motioned to the crowd. He would proceed to string together a trio of plays to power the Sixers to the victory, beginning with the biggest play of the night, when with 1:34 left, he would drain a step-back three to increase the lead to 109-101.

It is remarkable how unafraid he is of stepping up in the biggest moments. He knocked down another three, with this one coming from way downtown, on the following possession to further expand the lead to 112-101.

He capped it all off with a huge block to end the Heat's chances of coming back in the final 30 seconds.

Maxey began receiving chants of "Maxey, Maxey, Maxey" from a very energized home crowd. He has quickly developed into the third best player on the Sixers, behind just Embiid and Harden. The rate of his improvement is astronomical, whether it be in his overall mindset or his improved shooting from three-point range. He should definitely be a major candidate for Most Improved Player this season.

This is not the first time Maxey stepped up big for the Sixers when they were shorthanded. He scored 33 points to lead the Sixers, who were again without Embiid, to a 122-119 overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies back on Jan. 31. Maxey is completely capable of being the number one option when needed for the Sixers on any given night. The next step is to have him find the right balance playing next to both Embiid and Harden, something he has shown flashes of in their brief time together thus far.

Milton, Korkmaz take advantage of opportunity

This season has been a rough one for both Milton and Korkmaz. Both of them at one point had a defined role in the Sixers' rotation off the bench before losing their minutes, albeit for different reasons.

Milton was one of the team's top players off the bench, averaging 11.2 points in 25.4 minutes per game. However, he missed 18 games with a back contusion and has yet to click into gear since returning to the court on Feb. 11.

Korkmaz has struggled throughout the season, especially from beyond the arc. He went into the game against the Heat shooting a career-low 29.1 percent from three-point range, resulting in him losing his spot in the rotation.

Both Milton and Korkmaz took advantage of the opportunity created from the Sixers being shorthanded. The Sixers, despite being without Embiid and Harden, took a 57-56 lead into halftime due in no small part to the production received from both Milton and Korkmaz. Milton scored nine points and dished out four assists while Korkmaz scored 10 points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting (including a pair of threes) at halftime.

Milton continued his good play into the second half, carrying the Sixers' offense for a stretch early in the fourth quarter. He scored eight points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter as the game swung back and forth. Korkmaz also drilled a pair of key threes in the fourth quarter.

Korkmaz's performance against the Heat should be more than enough to have him earn his way back into the Sixers' rotation. The Sixers' bench has been struggling to play with any sort of consistency over the past few weeks, but if they can receive even half of the production they got from both Korkmaz and Milton the bench will be vastly improved.

Rivers continues to trust the vets over the youngsters at center

With Embiid out of the lineup, it would have been a perfect time for the Sixers to give either Charles Bassey or Paul Reed some minutes to see what they are capable of. However, head coach Doc Rivers continued to lean more towards trusting his pair of veteran centers, Paul Millsap and DeAndre Jordan.

Millsap, who had not played since March 5, received the start in replacement of Embiid. He was serviceable for the most part, finishing with five points and four rebounds in addition to recording a steal and a block. He was limited to 23 minutes due to getting in some foul trouble.

Jordan had an up-and-down night for the Sixers, which is to be expected at this stage of his career. He finished with eight rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench, but he scored only two points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field. He struggled defensively, especially in the fourth quarter when the Heat blitzed him repeatedly with pick-and-rolls between Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo.

The Sixers survived playing with the veteran centers against the Heat, but they missed a golden opportunity to see what Bassey or Reed are capable of. At this stage of the season, it is clear Rivers is going to ride with either Jordan or Millsap and hope one of them can provide serviceable production behind Embiid. The Sixers went down this path before and were burnt by it. Hopefully the same does not happen again the remainder of this season.