The 76ers entered Miami reeling after a serious letdown loss against another Florida team: the Orlando Magic. Following such a disappointing performance, it appeared the Sixers were itching for a chance to snag a big-time statement win. Taking on Jimmy Butler and the #2 seed Heat was just what the doctor ordered.
Through three and a half quarters, the game went pretty much as expected. Center Joel Embiid paced things for Philly, leading all scorers on the night with 35. The Heat, on the other hand, relied heavily on their extreme depth, something that has carried them to a plethora of wins early on this season. They had seven players score in double figures, including three coming from off the bench. Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, and Tyler Herro were particularly effective for Erik Spoelstra’s crew.
With neither team ever seriously pulling away, the game was unsurprisingly close heading into the final two minutes. Insanity ensued. Philadelphia led by five points twice in the final 1:47, failing to close it out either time. Joel Embiid hit a ridiculous step-back three over Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris missed a wide-open dunk, and Embiid had the ball stripped leading to a Tyler Herro fadeaway three.
Despite Philly seemingly trying their hardest to throw the game away, Ben Simmons came to the rescue at the end of regulation. Down two, Josh Richardson was sent to the free-throw line. After he missed the first shot, he intentionally bricked the second, allowing Simmons to swoop in and tip the ball in at the buzzer. Initially waived off on the court, the shot attempt was overruled and the two teams went into OT.
The Sixers had a plethora of opportunities to win on Saturday night, but ultimately their lack of execution was their downfall. Al Horford foolishly fouled Butler with just three seconds to go in overtime, allowing the Heat to take a one-point lead. Following a Sixers timeout, Harris got a good look at a three for the win but wasn’t able to knock it down.
The Sixers leave Florida winless. And just a few days after securing what was the win of the season, the 76ers now have more questions than answers. The season is long however, the team will get another shot to right the ship this Tuesday against the Pacers.
Joel Embiid: 35 points 11 rebounds
Jimmy Butler: 25 points 9 assists 9 rebounds
Goran Dragic: 19 points 7 assists
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports