The Sixers came up just short of a Christmas miracle, falling 119-113 the Miami Heat on Monday night.
Tyrese Maxey had his worst game of the season, finishing with just seven points and shooting 4-of-20 from the field. Philly did get strong performances from their wings which kept them in the game.
Tobias Harris had a strong outing for the second game in a row, going for 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Kelly Oubre Jr. had 25 himself, and Mo Bamba had a season-high 18 points.
None of it was good enough to stop rookie Jamie Jaquez Jr. who finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds.
Both teams were without their best player as Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler were sidelined with injuries.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- Philly’s defense had a pretty strong start to the game despite Embiid’s absence. A delayed closeout from Paul Reed psyched Bam Adebayo into traveling. Oubre flew all over the place, finishing the first with a steal and this denial on Tyler Herro’s cut.
- Harris picked up right where he left off Friday night, scoring a team-high nine in the first. He had no trouble getting his comfortable midrange jumpers up over Jamie Jaquez Jr. He also nailed hot-potato three at the end of the shot-clock for the second straight first quarter.
- Nick Nurse’s weird rotation choices haven’t really hurt this team at all so far this year. That being said, Danuel House Jr. before Robert Covington is kind of weird.
- While Harris was off to a good start, Maxey went scoreless in the first, missing his first six shots of the game. Unsurprisingly, the Heat defense was pretty aggressive in trying to rid him of the ball once he crossed half court, and he has yet to figure that out in games without Embiid this season. Miami ended the quarter on a 12-1 to take a two-point lead after one.
- Philly’s offense only got worse once Maxey headed to the bench. They went nearly nine minutes without a field goal over the course of the two quarters, as the roster’s dribbling and shot creation limitations were on full display.
- To make matters worse, Reed had to go to the bench less than three minutes into the quarter due to foul trouble. Nurse tried to let him play through it, but had to take him out once he had reached his fourth foul.
- If there was one positive, it was 14 first-half points from Mo Bamba. He had some shaky moments defending the pick-and-roll, but cleaned up very well on offense by just being the tallest guy on the floor. He’s continued to shoot it well too, knocking down a pair of threes in the half.
- That Bamba stretch was all the Sixers’ offense had in them in the quarter. Maxey continued to struggle with traps, going into the half scoreless. The Sixers as a team scored only six points over the last four-and-a-half minutes of the quarter, and went into the break down 14.
- Looking for a spark, Nurse went back to Bamba to start the second half over Reed. The Heat scored seven points on their first two possessions thanks to a technical free throw, then Bamba traveled the first time he touched the ball.
- Another adjustment Nurse made was sitting back in a zone defense. It was effective as the clogged passing lanes became turnovers. The Sixers had eight steals as a team through three, a big part of their 15-2 run.
- Philly’s offensive process didn’t necessarily improve, but their three-point shooting allowed them to hang around. They shot 6-of-10 from downtown in the third, Oubre leading the way with nine in the quarter.
- The Sixers’ bench got destroyed defensively in the first half, and Nurse made another adjustment. He went to Jaden Springer at end of the quarter, though still no sign of Robert Covington. Unbelievably, it was the Heat tying the game up at the end of the third on a Kyle Lowry layup.
- Despite the nickname his teammates gave him, Maxey just could not get going at the start of the fourth. He missed his first two attempts, and when he was finally able to draw a foul, he missed his first three throw. It was just one of those nights for him.
- This one possession was a perfect microcosm for this game. After his roller was taken away, Maxey horrendously dribbled himself into a double team back at half court. His pass that was intended for De’Anthony Melton somehow found Oubre, who bailed him out with a three as the shot clock was winding down.
Sometimes it's just like that. pic.twitter.com/o2Rw9XB7yM— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) December 26, 2023
- So it appears Jamie Jaquez has taken the role of “Miami role player who just kills your team.” Not only was he the Heat’s leading scorer, he also led the team with five offensive rebounds. He was simply everywhere.
- It was such an uphill battle to keep pace with the Heat due to how bad Maxey was struggling. The Sixers were held to only one field goal for the final 3:12 of the game, they also missed four free throws during this stretch.
- The Sixers will remain in Florida for their next matchup, as they'll take on the Orlando Magic Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET. Joel Embiid’s status for that game is still undetermined.
- Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from your favorite Sixers blog!