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Sixers face tough test against Heat to finish home stint

The Sixers have another challenge tonight in their final home game before a West Coast road trip.

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat Photo by Oscar Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

After the Sixers picked up what may have been their best win of the James Harden era against the Mavericks, their week ended on a low note in Sunday’s 93-88 loss to the Raptors.

The Sixers’ offense fell off dramatically after they scored 37 points in the first quarter and built up an early 16-point lead. Joel Embiid finished the game shooting 6-of-20 from the floor, Tobias Harris added just five points on 2-of-9 shooting, and the team as a whole shot a mere 7-of-27 (25.9 percent) from three. That, combined with the Sixers allowing a whopping 20 offensive rebounds to help the Raptors gain 20 extra field goal attempts, gave Toronto all it needed to hold on for a win.

Monday night presents the Sixers with another challenge, as they finish a back-to-back at home against the Heat, who still sit atop the Eastern Conference at 47-24.

The Heat won’t be quite at full strength for this game. Victor Oladipo (lower back spasms) is listed as out, while Gabe Vincent, who’s given the Heat a lot of solid minutes this season and started 26 games as they’ve dealt with various injuries, is out with a big toe contusion. Caleb Martin (hyperextended knee) and Jimmy Butler (ankle sprain) are both questionable.

The biggest question for the Sixers heading into this contest is whether they’ll give Embiid or James Harden a night off to rest, after they both played on Sunday against Toronto. The Sixers’ last game against the Heat on Mar. 5 (a 99-82 loss) came on the second night of a back-to-back as well, with Harden sitting out.

Even if the Sixers have all their stars available, though, this will be a tough game. Since Feb. 3, the Heat have gone 15-4. With their half-court offense still lacking punch (their offense has ranked 19th in this stretch), it’s their second-ranked defense in this span that has led the way.

Kyle Lowry is also back after missing the last game against Philly earlier this month. While he hasn’t been shooting well lately (averaging 7.3 points with a 30.8 percent three-point stroke and 35.3 percent shooting overall in his last six games), he still provides an extremely valuable injection of playmaking to the Heat’s half-court offense even when his shot is off. How he and Tyrese Maxey go against each other will be a fun matchup to watch.

Tyler Herro has been having a terrific season and has been particularly hot over the last few weeks, averaging 25.4 points with 51.9/47/85.2 shooting splits over his last 12 games. Maxey could see some time guarding Herro, but Matisse Thybulle will be particularly important in containing Herro’s perimeter shooting and improved driving game.

Bam Adebayo has been playing excellent two-way basketball since returning to action in mid January. He’s showing more aggressiveness as a scorer too, picking up three 30-point performances in his last 11 games (averaging 20.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in this stretch) to go along with his All-Defensive team level play.

Embiid matches up well against the smaller Adebayo one-on-one, but the Heat’s defense excels with its sharp communication, rotations, and smart, aggressive use of double teams. Embiid had a hard time against Miami on Mar. 5 with 4-of-15 shooting, so how and where the Heat send double teams from on Monday (providing Embiid plays) will remain one of the main things to watch in this matchup as usual.

Heading into Monday’s game, the Heat are -1.5 point favorites, although there could obviously be some fairly significant changes to this spread as we receive any updates for stars like Butler, Embiid and Harden through the day.

If the Sixers find a way to bounce back from a rough offensive night on Sunday and pull out a win against Miami, it may be their best win of the Harden era yet.

Game Info

Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat

When: 7:30 pm ET, Mar. 21, 2022

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia

Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Follow: @Liberty_Ballers

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