Well, crap. The Indiana Pacers caught the Philadelphia 76ers slippin’ a little bit on Tuesday night.
They caught them slippin’ and, ya know, Joel Embiid did not play. The latter probably had more to do with the loss. The former is just my attempt to be cute and funny when now is definitely not the time.
With three games to go in the regular season, the Sixers are still the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference, but their lead on the Brooklyn Nets is now only 1.5 games instead of the three it was last week. Complicating things more was the return of James Harden to the Nets’ lineup last night against the San Antonio Spurs. (Kyrie Irving was out, but they’re taking small victories with those three at this point.)
Tobias Harris scored 27 points in 34 minutes, and Ben Simmons recorded a 20/7/8 line against the Pacers. Caris LaVert’s 24 and Domantas Sabonis’s triple-double (16/13/15) paced Indiana to the win. With Embiid, the Sixers likely win that game. Now, with the Nets winning three straight, the Sixers are still one win away from clinching the first overall seed.
The Sixers will face a familiar sight in the first of these final three games – Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. Listen, we all know the “Saga of Jimmy” at this point, so there’s no need to get too much into it.
After getting to the NBA Finals Bubble last year against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Heat have had a down year. They’re 38-31 and currently hold the 6-seed in the East. Miami took a bit of a swing in landing Victor Oladipo at the trade deadline, but that move seems to have not worked out as it was announced he would be undergoing season-ending quadriceps surgery.
(Damn. I know he’s the enemy, but I feel bad for that kid. Sheesh.)
It continues to be the Jimmy Butler show featuring Bam Adebayo. Butler is who he is: a top-20 player in the NBA, a 20-points-per-game scorer, a not so great/not willing shooter from deep (.214 on 1.9 attempts), but still an elite defender (2.4 DBPM and leads the league in steals per game with 2.1).
Adebayo came out of nowhere last season to have the best season of his career so far, helping the Heat make the Finals. He’s improved steadily this year. He’s an elite roll man in the PnR (1.323 PPP), and an excellent rebounder. With putbacks, Adebayo averages 2.2 offensive rebounds per game and averages 1.423 PPP on those opportunities.
Where the Heat have taken a decline is 3-point shooting. Last season, they where 9th in attempts (35.4) and second in percentage (.379). This year, they rank 12th and 20th in those same categories. Duncan Robinson is still a 40 percent shooter from deep, but Tyler Herro’s shooting hasn’t been as hot or consistent as it was last season.
So much inconsistency has caused the Heat’s slight decline this season, yet, here they are as the 6-seed that no one wants to see in the first round. (Sorry, Bucks fans. It might be you guys.)
The Sixers beat the Heat in “back-to-back” games in January. Both of those games were in South Philadelphia, but now, the Sixers are in South Beach. Joel Embiid is still listed as a “game time decision” tonight, but so is Jimmy Butler (eye).
It’s the final road game of the season before the Sixers come back to South Philly to play the Orlando Magic to finish out the season. The 1-seed is right there for the taking … so, let’s just grab it and secure our spot, boys.
Who: Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers
When: 7:30 pm ET
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
Watch: TNT, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic