The Philadelphia 76ers returned home after a brutal loss to the Nets on Sunday. Without Joel Embiid, the Sixers looked absolutely helpless so fans were happy to see that Embiid would be returning for the game. This game marked the second time Jimmy Butler has returned to Philly this season. In the first game against the Heat, the Sixers absolutely crushed them, winning by a final score of 86-113.
The Sixers came out of the game with tenacious defense, stone-walling the Heat’s offense. Creating turnovers, pushing the ball, the Sixers were forcing the game in their favor. Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle had an absolutely amazing quarter. Harris’ offense and Thybulle’s defense were electrifying and got the Sixers off to a rocket-fast start.
The Sixers for some reason were playing deep off of exciting Miami big-man Bam Adebayo allowing him to a quick and easy eight points. Adebayo is not the deadliest offensive threat but you can’t let a guy score that often and efficiently,
Erik Spoelstra is one of the best and most underrated coaches in the NBA. Spoelstra has incorporated a zone defense unlike most where he allows his forwards to guard up top with his guards in the low corners. The length up top hinders shooters while the quicker guards can easily close out on corners. The zone defense locked up Embiid to the point that the Sixers wouldn’t even pass the ball to him which is an example of Spoelstra vastly out-coaching Brett Brown.
The Heat’s defense absolutely shut down the Sixers offense and stopped them from gaining any momentum. The offense of the Heat was just as hot as their defense. Clean drives, open threes, the Heat were slicing and dicing the Sixers defense. After finishing the first quarter leading by ten, the Sixers trailed at the half by eight.
The third quarter saw some fight from the Sixers as they did what they could to regain the lead. Going blow for blow with the Heat, the Sixers were trying to solve the Heat’s zone defense. Giving the ball to Embiid in the post was for some reason not one of Brett Brown’s solutions. Embiid sat a large portion of the quarter and Coach Brown left things to Tobias Harris and the rest of the team.
The Sixers were able to to find their offense but their defense was too soft to stop Kendrick Nunn and the Heat. Nunn and Adebayo were taking whatever they wanted and the Sixers barely tried to stop them. After the third quarter, the Sixers were no closer to regaining the lead.
The Sixers had their last chance to show something and take this game back in front of their home crowd. The Heat were still giving them fits and hitting seemingly every shot they took. Trying to regain the crowd, the Sixers tried forcing exciting plays but fell flat while the Heat succeeded in frustrating the team. The Sixers needed their star to deliver so Embiid went to work.
It wouldn’t matter though as Kendrick Nunn was hitting one unbelievable heave after another. Many of his shots were lucky but at the same time, the Sixers defense was soft and Nunn is a special young player. The Sixers finally started working their way back into the game. Fighting for rebounds, imposing their will, the Sixers began to make some headway.
Starting to hit, the Sixers’ threes were falling and their defense was locking down Miami. Harris and Richardson led the way offensively while Simmons managed the clock more effectively than ever before. Tides turned as Embiid, getting too fancy with the ball, turned it over at the most inopportune time and it unfortunately led to a Heat three. Embiid immediately atoned for this by working down low and scoring twice in under five seconds.
With just over 30 seconds in the game, the referees called a phantom foul against Joel Embiid that was challenged by Coach Brown unsuccessfully unfortunate. After a Tobias Harris three, the Heat threw the ball in and were able to knock off half the time remaining before the Sixers fouled Kendrick Nunn. An above-average free-throw shooter, Nunn somehow missed both free throws giving the Sixers a wonderful chance to tie the game down two. With almost eight seconds on the clock, Al Horford rose up for the game-winning three that stole your heart as it got close only to brick off the rim. The Sixers would go on to foul Bam Adebayo who made his two free-throws and sealed the game.
Next Game Mentality
This game hurts. The Sixers started off so hot only to have their hopes dashed and they have no one to blame but themselves. Brett Brown’s lack of adjustment and the team’s lack of defensive intensity allowed the Heat to steal this game. The perfect home record is no more, and it happened against another team vying for playoff position.
If you’re one for moral victories, the Sixers comeback effort would give you hope for the future. I am not one for such fantasies. Now obviously there are brighter days ahead, but there are real issues with this team. As a whole, this team needs to be reevaluated to succeed in the postseason.
The Sixers suffer from a lack of depth, something that will need to be addressed by the trade deadline. What’s more concerning is Brown’s unwillingness to take advantage of the depth he has. Matisse Thybulle just sat on the bench for most of the second half when his defense would’ve helped stop Nunn.
The Sixers need to work on the future, yes moves should be made, but first comes the next game. The Sixers will stay at home but the challenge will be far from easy. The Dallas Mavericks come to town but the Sixers might be let off easy. Luka Doncic sprained his ankle and may not be ready to go for the game. The Mavericks have more than held their own without him though. They recently ended the Milwaukee Bucks 18 game win streak when the Bucks were at home. With or without Doncic the Mavs will be a tough play so the Sixers must be ready.
This game will also appear nationally on ESPN with tip-off at 8:00 PM EST. Watch or listen live at 97.5 FM the Fanatic.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports