The Sixers faced off with the Miami Heat in a brutal back-to-back stretch of games following their victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hopes for this game decreased when James Harden was ruled out earlier in the day as part of the planned management of his hamstring.
This ultimately proved to be the case as tired legs from last night were apparent, and no Sixers player was able to fully get it going. Ultimately, the Heat cruised to a 99-82 victory to create more separation on the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They are now three games ahead of Philadelphia.
Rinse it Off
It has been a draining stretch for the Sixers, who picked up a difficult win over the Cavs last night before flying directly to Miami for this matchup. No team is ever going to go 82-0, and this is a game that some might consider a “schedule loss” as it is a difficult task to come out with wins in both of these games.
There was some noticeable frustration on the court for the Sixers, especially from Joel Embiid, who has performed below his sky-high bar for how he plays. No one ever wants to see a loss, but the team’s bigger goals are still well within reach, and no singular game should change this outlook.
The Sixers shot the ball unbelievably poorly in this matchup. Over the course of the game, they were 28-82 (34.1%) from the field and 7-41 (17.1%) from beyond the three-point arc. For reference, Philadelphia averages 46.5% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc on the season. It is impossible to win when the shots aren’t falling, and the Sixers struggled to find a way to produce easy looks to cure this problem.
Joel Embiid had a noticeably poor shooting performance in this matchup. The MVP candidate was 4-15 from the field and 0-6 from beyond the arc. While he ended with 22 points and 15 rebounds by the game’s end, Embiid was unable to find his stride in the way the Sixers needed. The big man has carried such a heavy load all season that it is beginning to bring up the question of some scheduled days off to bring some life back into his legs could be useful.
Importance of Georges Niang
While it may not have been expected when the signing initially occurred, Georges Niang has transformed into the most important piece of the Sixers bench. Some of this may be due to the lack of consistent production from guys like Furkan Korkmaz and Danny Green, but Niang has earned his role on the Sixers team. The energy and spunk he has paired with the three-point shooting and surprising shot creation have made him extremely valuable.
Much like the rest of the Sixers, Niang was unable to get it going in the matchup. The Iowa State product ended with 9 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds while shooting 4-11 from the field and 1-8 from beyond the three-point arc. Niang did have some positive moments, including trash talking with some front-row Heat fans and showing his creation, but he did not provide the scoring boost the Sixers were looking for overall.
The national media will likely take this loss for much more than its worth, but this is a performance the Sixers should forget about and move on. With 19 games left to play on the season, it seems unlikely the Sixers will be able to catch the Heat for the top spot in the East. The Sixers’ focus on securing the top seed last year blew up in the team’s face with their disastrous postseason exit, so this value on seeding should be drastically changed.
The championship aspirations that the Sixers have are still well within reach, and how the team is playing is a much bigger concern than how the standings look. The Sixers will be back in action on Monday for a matchup with the Bulls, who rank 4th in the East, so they cannot afford to feel discouraged for long.