Entering this second-round series with the Miami Heat, the Sixers’ mandate was clear: try to steal one game in Miami, then hope Joel Embiid was cleared to return when the series shifted back to Philadelphia and that the Phantom of the Process could carry them across the finish line. After surging back in front at halftime of Game 1, the Sixers fell apart in the second half of their 106-92 defeat, and are now left with one more chance to pull off the upset before heading home.
In the good news category, Kyle Lowry is once again out for Game 2. In his absence in Game 1, even more creation responsibility fell upon the shoulders of Tyler Herro, who was more than up to the task in supplementing his team-high 25 points with a game-high seven assists. Hopefully, Herro isn’t as lights-out from 25-plus feet tonight. Other good news? Tobias Harris carried over his excellent play from the opening round with a stellar outing against the Heat, scoring a game-high 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Asking him to be as bruising and dominant on a nightly basis is a tall order, but it’s what the Sixers need, especially with Embiid sidelined.
Bad news? How about nearly everything else. The Sixers couldn’t hit the broad side of a South Beach nightclub Monday night, finishing 6-of-34 from behind the arc. At least there’s optimism around positive regression coming into play. Perhaps less tenable? The beatdown the Sixers received on the glass. Miami outrebounded Philadelphia, 47-37, in Game 1, including 15-9 on the offensive boards. P.J. Tucker repeatedly snatched the ball up like a playground bully ganging up on kids a couple years younger than him. Doc Rivers’ solution was apparently more DeAndre Jordan, a move met with incredulity by local and national media alike. You hate to pile on Jordan, a genuinely good dude who had the misfortune of aging like we all do or will, but we can definitely call out Doc for such an stubbornly foolish decision-making process, and Daryl Morey for reverse Billy Beane-ing this situation by signing DeAndre in the first place.
Per the oddsmakers, the Sixers are 8.5-point underdogs entering tonight’s contest, one point worse than Game 1 (we’ll call that the “Doc is really going to play DeAndre Jordan heavy minutes?” downward bump). What’s the path to the upset then, you may ask? James Harden turning back the clock for one night. Tyrese Maxey turning it forward. Tobias Harris staying right where he’s at, and Paul Reed somehow cutting his foul rate in half. We’ll see on what side of the unlikely-to-impossible spectrum all of those things fall tonight, as the Sixers look to scrap their way back into a tied series.
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