Following their dominant victory over the Boston Celtics, the Sixers flew immediately down to Miami ahead of their matchup with the Heat. Joel Embiid was questionable leading up into this game due to a right elbow issue but was able to suit up again tonight. The Sixers continued to be without Shake Milton (back) and Danny Green (hip), but Matisse Thubulle was also held out of this game following the scary fall last night.
This was a difficult back-to-back for the Sixers, but the recent stretch of basketball they have played gives hope for them in any matchup. Coming into this game just 1 game out of 4th place and 3.5 games out of first in the East, this was an excellent opportunity to continue climbing the standings.
With the Heat without their all-star center Bam Adebayo, many would have guessed this would be a game where Joel Embiid eats early and often. It was quickly clear that the Heat had other plans, and some impressive play from Omer Yurtseven led to some early struggles. Yurtseven tallied 10 points and 5 rebounds in the first 6 and a half minutes of play alone and showed he was not intimidated by Embiid by playing some stellar defense.
It was a very disappointing end to the quarter for the Sixers as the Heat took an 11-0 run to end the quarter. The Sixers did not register a made field goal for the final 6:13 in the quarter and shot 0-8 from the field during this time. Ultimately the Heat took a 29-20 lead after the first quarter.
Tobias Harris had an excellent first half and was vital to keeping the Sixers in the game. Harris scored 15 points and knocked, shot 6 of 8 from the field and 3 of 3 from beyond the three-point arc in the half. The Sixers were starved for offense, and it was nice to see Tobias answer the call. His struggles of late have been frustrating for everyone, and if he can continue to produce, it would go a long way to helping this Sixers team.
After freshly inking his two-way deal this week, Charlie Brown Jr. was also given some extended minutes in the first half. On a team starved for athleticism, it was clear what an impact the bouncy Saint Joe’s product could bring. In 8 minutes of play, Brown tallied 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal while raising the Sixers’ energy level by a major margin.
It was a fairly sloppy half for the Sixers as they were careless with the basketball and never found a true rhythm on offense. Outside of Joel Embiid and Charlie Brown Jr, there also was not enough consistent effort on the defensive end. Despite this, the Sixers still remained in striking distance as they trailed 50-47, heading into the second half.
To the Sixers’ credit, every time it felt as if the Heat were about to bury them, they found a way to answer. It took just over two minutes left in the third for the Sixers to tie it up and a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Seth Curry to take the lead. It was an impressive third quarter as the Sixers outscored the Heat 32-23 and were able to take a 75-73 lead into the fourth.
This momentum carried into the fourth quarter as the Sixers had seemingly flipped the switch. Seth Curry continued to produce and ended with 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. He shot 5 of 9 from beyond the arc and flashed some impressive creation ability. Georges Niang also came off the bench to knock down 4 important three-pointers for the Sixers.
Some shooting struggles from the Heat greatly helped the Sixers’ chances in tonight’s game. Jimmy Butler shot 1-11 from the field, Kyle Lowry was 2-11, and Duncan Robinson was unable to connect on any of his 8 three-point attempts. Miami’s offense grew stagnant late in the game, and the Sixers were able to capitalize on this.
Led by Joel Embiid, the Sixers totally flipped the switch in the second half. In the end, they cruised to a 109-98 victory and held control late in the game. Joel Embiid continued to dazzle, ending with 32 points and 12 rebounds while making a terrific impact on the defensive end.
This was a statement win for the Sixers. Despite being on the second night of a back-to-back and short a few key players, the Sixers found a way to win. They were able to shake off a fairly poor first-half performance and play a much better game in the second. The Heat came into this game 2nd in the East with a record of 27-15 with some impressive wins under their belt. To come into Miami and pull out a gutsy performance is an impressive effort for Philly.
The Sixers now have a record of 25-7 and are continuing to climb up the Eastern Conference. While some of their recent wins were against lower-tear teams and expected, this was far from the case tonight. The NBA is a league where sometimes stars are able to will their teams to victory, and that was seen tonight with Joel Embiid. This Sixers team followed their leader as Embiid showed a determination to win, and the job was completed. Their next game will be on Monday against the Washinton Wizards.