Slow start dooms Sixers against the Heat

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Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler, right, goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers came into their Monday night matchup with the Miami Heat after a heartbreaking last-second loss to the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat came into this clash, losers of three straight, and played like they wanted to break out of their slump. Maybe the Sixers were still feeling the effects of their hard-fought loss, but they came out with no energy, and they paid the price. If there is any team in the NBA that will make you pay for low energy, the Miami Heat will.

From the tip, Miami out-hustled the Sixers and was able to build a lead of 10 points and keep the Sixers at arm’s length for most of the game. Every time the Sixers climbed back into the game, the Heat built back up the lead. In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Sixers managed to grab a one-point lead, but it was erased on the next possession by an insane reverse layup by Jimmy Butler.

The Heat held on for a 101-99 win after a James Harden three-pointer missed at the buzzer. The Heat was led by Jimmy Butler (23 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists), and the Sixers were paced by Joel Embiid (27 points and 12 rebounds).

Low Energy and Effort

The Sixers came out in tonight’s contest and were out-rebounded and out-hustled. The Miami Heat had eight offensive rebounds in the first quarter, which helped them build their lead. The Sixers have gotten away with sleepwalking through games and pulling them out in the end but not tonight and not against the Heat. The Miami Heat are nowhere now the talent level of the Sixers, but they play hard every single possession. The Sixers slept walk through the first 2.5 quarters of this game, and in the end, it was too much to overcome.

Is it the dog days in the middle of a long season? Maybe. With their tough March schedule and with 12 out of 15 games on the road, they needed to win this game at home against the Heat on Monday night. A team with championship aspirations has to play with more effort than was shown in the first half of this game. Hopefully, this was a lesson for the squad to be ready for their rubber match in Miami on Wednesday.

Maxey Should Be Starting

Tyrese Maxey has been honest about the struggles that he has faced now that he has been moved to a reserve role. He was one of the most consistent Sixers before his injury, but now his play fluctuates. He struggles to determine when to be aggressive and when to defer. The majority of his minutes come when he is playing with all bench units and the defense is keying on him.

The team needs some perimeter defense next to James Harden, but Maxey is much better off starting. He gets to get good looks off of third and fourth actions, and it helps build his confidence if he plays minutes with the reserves. Tyrese Maxey ended the night with 23 points before fouling out. We can all hope a game like this continues to boost his confidence.

Blow the Whistle

Clearly, the Sixers didn’t play well but that was compounded by poor refereeing. There were tons of missed calls and some phantom calls for the Heat as well. There were phantom fouls called on Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid, while the refs missed two bad calls.

The first was a clear Flagrant 1 penalty against Victor Oladipo at the end of the third quarter. He did not allow Maxey to land and Maxey fell on Oladipo’s foot and tweaked his ankle. The other call was a charge on Maxey when clearly the defender was late to the spot. There is no excuse for the Sixers’ play, but there also isn’t an excuse for the referees not being at the top of their game.