The Philadelphia 76ers came into their rubber match with the Heat Wednesday night in Miami after a tough loss in Philly Monday. The Sixers were outplayed on Monday night and couldn’t complete the comeback after a slow start losing 101-99. In this matchup, the Sixers were without MVP candidate Joel Embiid, as he sat out the front end of a back-to-back with left foot soreness.
At the start of this one, the Sixers started out a tad slow as they looked to get their offense and defense together. The Heat started out hot early and led 38-34 at the end of the first quarter. The Sixers picked up their effort and defense and were able to fight back in the second quarter and outscore the Heat by 22 in the second quarter. A stretch of Harden, plus athletic wings, helped propel the Sixers to a really good quarter on both ends.
The Heat made a mid-third quarter run to make the Sixers sweat slightly, but the lead never got below 10 points. The Sixers were able to pull away in the fourth for a relatively easy 119-96 victory against the Heat. The Sixers were led by Tyrese Maxey (27 points, seven assists, and four rebounds) and James Harden (23 points, seven rebounds, and five assists). The Heat were led by Bam Adebayo, who tallied 20 points and eight rebounds.
James Harden and Tyrese Maxey paced the 76ers offensively against the Heat. Harden had a bounce-back performance from Monday and even overcame a slow start in this one. Once Harden got going from the three-point line, he was able to use his drive to get to the free-throw line. There were a lot of non-calls on Harden’s drives, and he could have had about six to eight more points to his point total.
Tyrese Maxey started in place of an injured Joel Embiid and played like a star. Maxey was getting his right hand on the dribble drive and made the Heat pay any time they didn’t collapse on his drives. He was also good from the perimeter and hit Caleb Martin with a crazy step back to make him look silly. This is the second game in a row where Maxey was aggressive and looked like himself. Let’s hope he can continue to build on these performances for the rest of the season.
The Sixers’ Bench Mob
The bench hasn’t had its best performances in the last few outings, but tonight they came to play. Paul Reed was tremendous tonight, providing energy, rebounding, and extra effort all night. Reed protected the rim and was able to play well when switched on perimeter players. He ended the night with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Shake Milton played well in some extended minutes contributing 12 points to the 38 total bench points for the Sixers. Danuel House Jr. got the nod off the bench over Georges Niang in this contest, which is a decision that Head Coach Doc Rivers had to try. Niang hasn’t been shooting well as of late, and his defense isn’t good enough to stay on the court. It will be interesting to see if the Sixers stick with House Jr. or go back to Niang, dependent on the matchup.
Lock Down Defense
The Sixers started out slow on the defensive end against the Heat in the first quarter allowing 38 points. They locked down after the first quarter, only allowing 58 points for the remainder of the game. The small-ball Sixers used a switching strategy which early on caused them to over-help on Miami dribble drives.
Once they got into a defensive rhythm and crashed the boards as a team, they shut the Heat down. They played much better defense on Jimmy Butler and helped slow down their three-point shooting. The 76ers are one of the most talented teams in the NBA, and when they give true effort on the defensive end, they are hard to beat.