There were plenty of opportunities for the Miami Heat to bury the Sixers.
Instead, the Sixers hung around before their MVP candidate took the game over late in a gutty 109-98 win over Jimmy Butler and the Heat Saturday night at FTX Arena. The Sixers have now won nine of 10 and sit at 25-17 overall. They have a matinee road matchup with the Wizards on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Matisse Thybulle (shoulder soreness), Danny Green (hip) and Shake Milton (back contusion) were all out. Ben Simmons (personal reasons) remains out.
Bam Adebayo (right thumb surgery) and Philly native Markieff Morris (conditioning) were out for Miami.
Here are a few takeaways from Saturday night’s game.
- Joel Embiid looks up for this one on both ends, but he does appear to be favoring that elbow. And he’s just being asked to do too much on defense. Rookie Omer Yurtseven recorded 10 points and six rebounds in the first quarter because Embiid was challenging everything at the rim. The Heat as a team had five offensive rebounds. The Sixers needed to rotate on and box out Yurtseven much better.
- Man, one sequence that was just a microcosm of the Sixers’ season. Embiid was on the ground going after a loose ball while three Miami players swarmed him. No Sixers came over to help. Yikes.
- The Heat went on an 11-0 run when Embiid went to the bench. That was not a coincidence.
- It’s awfully tough to win when you’re missing your two (three if you include Simmons) best perimeter defenders. They needed Embiid to be otherworldly, a brutal ask on a back-to-back while dealing with a sore elbow. The big man was just 1 of 6. The Sixers shot just 33.3 percent from the field. They were lucky to be down 29-20.
- A pretty disjointed game from both sides. The Heat definitely have way more juice, but the Sixers are somehow hanging around. Miami, an excellent three-point shooting team, is cold from beyond, but some credit goes to the Sixers’ defense.
- Charlie Brown Jr. is a legitimate NBA defender. Tyler Herro was carving the Sixers up, but when Doc Rivers inserted Brown Jr. into the game, the recent recipient of a two-way deal forced two turnovers. He was then tasked with guarding Jimmy Butler and had some success. If he can find his shot at this level (he shot 38.9 percent from three on 6.5 attempts a game in the G League), he should be a candidate for rotational minutes.
- Tobias Harris is off to a solid offensive start. He’s up to 13 points and 3 of 3 from three. The Sixers used a 13-3 run — 9-1 once Embiid returned — to make it a one-point game late in the second.
- The Sixers showed some guts to stick around in this one. Embiid was just 3 of 11 and yet, they were still within striking distance at 50-43 — a P.J. Tucker three with seconds remaining in the half was a little deflating. The scoring was fairly balanced from Harris (15), Curry (8) and Maxey (8). While the Sixers could’ve used more from Embiid offensively, there was a huge disparity in bench scoring with the Heat holding a 20-1 advantage.
- And now, the Heat can’t miss from three. The Sixers’ offense is off to a rough start in the third. Just a lot of passing on the perimeter with little penetration. Miami’s rotations have been really good defensively. Again, just nobody making the opponent pay for all the attention they’re giving Embiid.
- I write that and then, Curry starts to cook. Have to give this team credit: there have been multiple moments where it seemed like they could’ve just let the game snowball into a blowout and that hasn’t happened. Embiid free throws and a shot in the face of Dewayne Dedmon, and it’s a three-point game with 4:16 left in the third.
- This is one of Harris’ better games of the season. He got great post position and then found Georges Niang for an open three to tie the game at 70-70. As a team, the Sixers started to take advantage of the aggressive attention Miami was paying to Embiid.
- Wow. A huge three from Curry and the Sixers will go into the fourth with a 75-73 lead. Curry (11) and Embiid (12) carried the load in the third. This is a gutty effort.
- Great defense sparking another good run to start the fourth. Brown Jr. continuing to make an impact on that end. Also, one of Harris’ better defensive performances of the season. Niang knocks home another triple off a turnover. Great team basketball.
- Oh my, Tyrese Maxey just ate Kyle Lowry’s lunch. Lowry loaded up to take a three from the top of the key off a screen and Maxey did his best Thybulle impersonation with a rearview block. Maxey just straight ripped the ball out of the veteran guard’s hands. Wow.
- Worth mentioning again: Charlie Brown Jr. can play D. He’s had Herro in hell every time he’s been on him. Impressive stuff. Good for Doc for riding him, even late in this game.
- Embiid is warming to the task here in the fourth. He’s been huge in the second half. With Miami going small, he was guarding his pal Butler. Tremendous defensive effort from the Sixers down stretch.
- That’s 30 points for Embiid, his 10th straight 30-point performance on the road. This is an MVP-level two-way performance.
- This is one hell of a win. To go into Miami, hold Butler and Lowry to a combined 3 of 22 and keep one of the hottest to below 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from the three ... wow. Embiid was a monster with 32 points and 12 rebounds. He was complemented well by Curry (21) and Harris (22). Niang was big off the bench with 12 points, all in the second half and all off threes (4 of 8).