The Sixers eked out a home victory over the 9th-seeded Miami Heat tonight, 106-102.
In the first of hopefully only three games without franchise centerpiece Joel Embiid (knee soreness), the Sixers started folk hero Boban Marjanovic in his stead. Bobi went to work early and often in the paint and on the boards, as he tallied 16 points and 11 rebounds in the first half, 19 and 12 overall.
All night, the team was plagued by poor shooting from deep, ending up only 7-for-26 from 3-point range. To combat that paltry showing, the Sixers starters did their best to make up for it from the charity stripe, shooting 35 free throws in tonight’s contest.
Defensively, the team was clearly struggling to find its footing without Embiid, and mainly when Boban took a seat. Jonah Bolden showed considerable rust in his first game action following four straight DNP-CD’s. Bolden was a team-low minus-11 on the night.
Down the stretch, the Sixers were forced to go ultra-small by the Heat’s insertion of Kelly Olynyk at center; Brett Brown opted for Mike Scott and, then, for a short period, Ben Simmons at the 5 in the guts of the game. It’s pretty cool that the team has the luxury of using its All-Star point guard as an effective center when need be.
The team was buoyed by solid, if not spectacular, offensive outputs by Tobias Harris (23 points, game-high plus-19), Jimmy Butler (18 points, 8-for-8 from the free throw line), and Ben Simmons (21 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists). Simmons, especially, showed some really impressive footwork and strength in the post, scoring over and through Justise Winslow time and again.
For the Heat, Dwyane Wade had 19 points off the bench, because of course.
Up next for the Sixers: the team welcomes Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers to town for a Saturday matinee at 1pm.