Instant Observations: 76ers Fall to Heat in Final Contest Before Much-Needed All-Star Break

Instant Observations: 76ers Fall to Heat in Final Contest Before Much-Needed All-Star Break Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers (32-22) put up a good fight before ultimately falling 109-104 to the Miami Heat (30-25) on Wednesday night.

Tyrese Maxey finished with 30 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Buddy Hield totaled 22 points, 10 assists and two steals. Paul Reed added 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The Sixers were without Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), Tobias Harris (left hip impingement), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine stress response), Nic Batum (left hamstring strain) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise). Kyle Lowry, the team’s newest acquisition, was also out of the lineup due to return to competition reconditioning.

Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 23 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Tyler Herro finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Duncan Robinson added 20 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting.

Miami was also without multiple key players. Jimmy Butler (personal reasons), Terry Rozier (right knee sprain), Josh Richardson (right shoulder dislocation) and Dru Smith (right knee surgery) were all out of the lineup.

The All-Star break is coming at a perfect time for the Sixers. They will have eight days off to rest and heal up. Here are some instant observations from the loss to the Heat:

– It was not too long ago the Sixers’ offense looked stuck in the mud in the midst of a poor stretch of basketball. However, since the trade deadline their offense has exploded. Hield’s addition to the roster has been a large reason behind the turnaround. His production as an outside shooter has been tremendous. Heading into the game against the Heat, Hield was shooting 13-of-29 (44.8%) from 3-point range in a Sixers uniform. Against Miami, Hield once again shot the lights out. He began the game on fire, knocking down four of his first six attempts from beyond the arc. What makes him difficult to defend are both his versatility as a shooter and his constant movement around the floor. Hield can easily knock down standstill 3-pointers, but he is also capable of finding success using a mixture of sidestep and step-back jumpers.

While Hield’s outside shooting is his primary asset, his playmaking ability is not talked about enough. Since being traded to Philadelphia, he is averaging 6.7 assists per game. His passing ability is not going to blow anyone away, but he is capable of creating in a pinch. After getting off to a red-hot start from long distance, the Heat made a more concerted effort to run him off the 3-point line in the second half. However, he still found ways to produce as a distributor. There were more than a few occasions where he turned a Heat double team on him into an open look for one of his teammates. Things were not perfect, with Hield committing some poor turnovers in the second half. However, his production as a playmaker has been by far a net positive in his brief Sixers tenure.

– Maxey’s production was all over the place against the Heat. He had some nice moments attacking the basket, and he consistently looked to score in the mid-range. His mid-range shooting was key considering he does not often rely on that part of his game. While he had a good night as a scorer, his night as a playmaker was much less productive. He committed some poor turnovers while trying to force things instead of letting things come to him. Maxey briefly left the game in the third quarter after his foot got stepped on, but he ultimately returned to the lineup.

The Sixers’ offense has been much improved since the trade deadline. However, their defense has taken a major step back. Against Miami, Maxey was one of the main culprits of the Sixers’ defensive struggles. He routinely got shredded on the perimeter, leading to far too many wide open looks for the Heat. His defense against screens left a lot to be desired, and Miami attacked him on that all game long. Maxey was not the only one to struggle defensively. While Hield’s offensive production has been excellent, it has been the exact opposite on the other end of the floor. He has never been a good defender, and that has carried over into his time in Philadelphia. If the Sixers are not able to clean things up defensively, the next few months without Embiid are going to be tough to watch.

– Zone defense continues to cause the Sixers’ offense major trouble. The Sixers scored 62 points in the first half behind hot shooting and a balanced scoring effort. However, Miami switched over to a zone defense for much of the second half. The Sixers had no answer for Miami’s zone defense. They spent large portions of the second half looking to attack off the dribble and settling for contested shots. Being this bad against a zone defense with shooters the caliber of Hield and Maxey on the floor is hard to understand. Head coach Nick Nurse needs to spend a lot of time over the All-Star break developing a better plan for how to handle zone defense.

– Reed had one of his best games of the season both on the glass and as a scorer. He gave the Heat fits on the boards, already having double-digit rebounds heading into halftime. At one point in the first quarter, Reed tied up Kevin Love and forced a jump ball after Love had seemingly brought down a defensive rebound. In addition to his work on the boards, Reed also had a solid night offensively. He knocked down a 3-pointer as well as multiple mid-range jumpers.

Ricky Council IV’s strong play of late continued against the Heat. Most of his damage continued to come on drives to the basket, where he uses his strength and physicality to finish through contact. He also does a good job using his physicality on the glass. He is never afraid to go up for contested rebounds, and he comes down with them more often than not. The jumper needs some work, although he did show some flashes against the Heat on that front. The 22-year old should receive a consistent spot in the rotation, even when the Sixers get fully healthy. He finished this game with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench.

– After having a good game in the win over the Cavaliers, Kelly Oubre Jr. went in the complete opposite direction against the Heat. He continued to have a quick trigger from 3-point range despite struggling as a shooter in recent weeks. Over the last 18 games, Oubre is shooting a meager 24.4% from beyond the arc. He also played poor defense, although that does not come as a surprise. If he is not able to turn things around soon, he is at risk of losing a lot of his minutes.

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