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James Harden-less Sixers can’t overcome tired legs in loss to Heat

The schedule maker’s cruelty coupled with the absence of their star point guard led to a tough Sixers’ loss in Miami.

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Heading into the night, this felt like a schedule loss. Then, the news that James Harden would sit as he still nurses a left hamstring injury didn’t instill much confidence.

Credit to the Sixers for putting up a fight, but their tired legs were too much to overcome in a 99-82 loss to the Heat in Miami Saturday night. The loss drops the Sixers to 39-24 and snaps a five-game winning streak. They’ll host the Bulls on Monday.

Here are a few takeaways from a tough night.

First quarter

  • Right off the bat the Heat’s strategy was obvious: swarm Joel Embiid on every touch and make anyone else beat you. When Embiid got good position, the Sixers struggled to get him the ball. Embiid was visibly frustrated on one possession where the big man had Tucker pinned deep and instead of getting the ball to him, Tobias Harris dribbled into a bad pull-up jumper.
  • The Sixers were OK defensively, but the offense was putrid. It felt like every player that came in missed a three. I am enormously concerned about the Sixers’ wing depth. Furkan Korkmaz’s season-long slump continued (0 for 3), despite being given the opportunity to start.
  • Hey, Isaiah Joe is playing! He missed a deep three.
  • The Sixers went 5 of 23 in the first quarter. They trailed 22-14. Not much else to say.

Second quarter

  • Paul Millsap minutes are still a thing, even with DeAndre Jordan on the bench. They’re going as expected. The Heat started the second quarter on 10-0 run.
  • The Sixers just got to 20 points. We’re almost four minutes into the second quarter. This looks like danger time.
  • I’ll ease up on Millsap. He took a couple ugly shots early in his stint, but has actually played some of his best basketball as a Sixer. He’s been active on the glass and is actually giving Bam Adebayo a tough time on defense.
  • Doc Rivers said a couple of the reserve wings were going to have to distinguish themselves to earn minutes. Shake Milton appears to be doing so. His last bucket cut the deficit, which was as large as 20, back down to 10.
  • Tyrese Maxey starting to cook a bit. A step-back three and strong drive and he’s up to 10 points. Tobias Harris having a decent half as well, up to 11 points.
  • I was going to give the Sixers some credit for fighting back, but then they closed the first half terribly. They shot 33.3 percent from the field and hit just 4 of 12 from beyond the arc. Embiid was 2 of 10 for just six points. The shooting will likely even out some (Miami shot 51.4 percent), but the Sixers seem to lack juice playing without James Harden and on the second half of a tough back-to-back. They trail 54-40 at the half.

Third quarter

  • Much better start here for Embiid. Hits a jumper in the face of Adebayo then gets fouled on the next possession.
  • Embiid doing some serious grifting here, but got called for the weirdest technical I’ve ever seen. On a spin move in which he was fouled by Jimmy Butler, Embiid accidentally swung around and smacked his buddy in the face. It was obviously not intentional. Alas, the Heat got a free point for it. The positive here is the Sixers are in the bonus.
  • The Sixers’ zone defense and Maxey are starting to get going. Maxey hit a beauty of a floater then Matisse Thybulle comes up with an outstanding block on Butler which led to another Maxey bucket. Suddenly, this is a game at 58-53 with the Heat still in front. Maxey now with 17 points.
  • Butler doing plenty of grifting of his own and getting to his spots at will. He’s helped pushed Miami’s lead back into a double digits. The former Sixer has 21, including 8 of 11 from the line.
  • Coming off an outstanding game against the Cavs last night, Georges Niang can’t quite get it going from deep. He’s 0 of 5 from three. The Sixers as a team are just 5 of 27.
  • Led by their defense, the Sixers are chipping away again. Niang isn’t hitting from deep, but he’s made three nice drives that harkened back to his Iowa State days. It’s 68-62 late in the third.
  • An outstanding defensive quarter from the Sixers, who held the Heat to just 19 points in the third. A Danny Green three and a pair of Embiid free throws have made this a 73-68 game heading into the final period (despite a late three from renown Sixers killer Gabe Vincent). Credit to the Sixers for fighting back on a night they don’t have their A-game.

Fourth quarter

  • And Millsap just missed everything on a wide-open three. Yikes.
  • A few plays later, Millsap was able to fight on the offensive glass which led a Niang three to make it 78-74. What a weird night.
  • After a solid start, Harris has struggled mightily as Tyler Herro has really started to cook. Harris is now just 5 of 13 while Herro is up to 21 points.
  • The Sixers went almost five minutes without a field goal until Harris hit a floater with just over five minutes left. The Sixers again being stifled by the Heat’s zone, but still in this game. It’s 87-80 Heat.
  • Man, Maxey just made a brutal turnover. The young guard rarely ever gives the ball up, especially so blatantly in such a crucial point of the game. The Heat just have way more jump, which makes sense given they were sitting at home waiting for the Sixers last night. A Max Strus three makes it 92-80 and that might just about do it.
  • The Sixers shot the ball like a team with tired legs. They scored 14 points in the fourth and made just 7 of 40 from three on the night. Meanwhile, the Heat, one of the best shooting teams in the NBA, made 48.1 percent from deep. Tough schedule break and no Harden, this game went pretty much as expected. We’re onto the Bulls.

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