HomeBasketball TodayPhilly's Fumble: Last Game Slips Away Ahead of All-Star Break

Philly’s Fumble: Last Game Slips Away Ahead of All-Star Break

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The 76ers and Heat squared off before heading into the All-Star break.

The Philadelphia 76ers (32-22) played the Miami Heat (30-25) in one last game before the All-Star break. The game was very close the whole way, with neither side obtaining a double-digit lead. In the end, the Sixers lost 109-104.

Let’s break down the Sixers’ last game before the break.

76ers player notes:

Tyrese Maxey: 30 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 12-23 FG shooting

Maxey was a little too overly reliant on his off-the-dribble threes early on but he did shoot the ball very well, so no harm was done. He did a very nice job of leading the way, shooting the ball with confidence from mid-range and getting his new backcourt mate going from deep. An injury scare in the third quarter didn’t totally eliminate his effectiveness but he wasn’t able to catch fire at the right time for the 76ers to win.

Buddy Hield: 22 points, 3 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 8-15 FG shooting

The threes start coming and they don’t stop coming! After another strong outing, Hield again hit the ground running with a spectacular offensive game. His warts on defense are not pretty but the way he can score and open up the floor for others absolutely is.

Heat player notes:

Bam Adebayo: 23 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 9-14 FG shooting

The All-Star big man did his job as the literal center of Miami’s style of play, hitting jumpers in the pint and skying for lobs. The fluid, hard-to-stop two-man games he worked with Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro proved to be tough. His defense in the paint altered Philly’s shot chart for the betterment of Miami. Especially in crunch time, he came up huge.

Game recap:

1st half

Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Terry Rozier, De’Anthony Melton, Nico Batum, Josh Richardson and Robert Covington were all out for this game. This was a contest that just screamed “last game before the break” for a heavily injured Philly squad and a Miami team missing its best player and marquee mid-season addition on the second night of a road back-to-back. Kyle Lowry was not available for his new squad yet, leaving the 76ers with just 10 active players.

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Caleb Martin guarded Maxey, who took on the Herro assignment. He connected with KJ Martin on yet another lob at the state of the game. They later ran a fake pitch to free up Maxey for a mid-range jumper, sinking the shot and hitting the freebie after his landing space was intruded upon. As the Heat scored with their own lobs to Adebayo, Hield drained a pair of triples and Maxey got the offensive into a strong flow, recording seven points and three assists in the first five minutes.

Ricky Council IV and Cam Payne were the first subs, placing a smaller backcourt out there with Maxey staying on. The Heat turned the pressure up defensively — former Sixer Haywood Highsmith helped out a ton there — as consecutive Duncan Robinson threes eventually put them ahead. Philly was flummoxed by the Miami zone defense. Council was responsible for the only four points the Sixers scored in the final three minutes of the first quarter.

The 76ers defense was very rocky to start the next period, allowing Jaime Jaquez Jr. to score on backdoor-cut layups and on a size mismatch against Maxey. Their offense, meanwhile, yielded Hield buckets as he and Maxey continued to percolate. Martin, showing a keen sense for moving off from the ball on various possessions, flushed a dunk on Nikola Jovic’s head. His athleticism and ability to be a connective playmaker on the move are becoming more and more impactful.

Never separating by more than five points, the second quarter remained very close. Hield’s heater provided points and openings for teammates. The shooting groove he was in kept Philly going amid its lack of volume on shots at the rim. The 76ers also did a good job of cleaning the glass on defense.

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At the break, the Sixers led 62-60.

2nd half

Five straight points to open the half got the 76ers off to a nice start. Maxey scored on an and-one at the rim while the Heat came out cold. Things took a turn for the worse when Maxey got hurt going for a loose ball, seemingly favoring his left ankle after Reed inadvertently stepped on it. He walked off the court very slowly but under his own power before heading back to the locker room.  Just a few minutes later, he was ready to check back in.

On the court, the Heat drew even as Terquavion Smith prepared to make his first appearance in the game. The 76ers pulled back ahead as Payne and Reed stepped up but not by much. The dogfight required some real dog mentality and who better to call but Council, who once again stepped up on both ends, including with a nice Euro-step score that froze Kevin Love in place and a three-pointer. Only one point separated the two sides as Miami led 83-82 heading into the fourth quarter.

The 76ers started the fourth quarter by committing that number of fouls in the first three minutes. More Maxey, Council and Hield goodness on offense was counteracted. Miami made Maxey work on defense and put extra emphasis on him defensively. Herro and Adebayo got into a groove in their two-man game, creating a six-point lead that was the Heat’s biggest of the game.

Adebayo’s presence at the rim mucked up Sixers possessions frequently. He gave drivers no option other than to ditch the ball to avoid getting stuffed and hope it ended up with a teammate. The Heat succeeding in getting the ball out of Maxey’s hands made things even harder, though the game remained right there for the taking.

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The shots Maxey was able to get couldn’t find the bottom of the twine. The same went for Hield. The Heat did a great job of cleaning up their own misses. The Sixers found life after forcing a turnover down by five with a minute left. Then Adebayo was called for a goaltend on a Maxey floater. Just as they were going to get a stop, Jaquez flew in for a putback dunk. After free throws and another forced miss, Adebayo got the offensive board. He made both, the Sixers flubbed their final play and that was it.

Random tidbits:

In his pregame presser, Nick Nurse hinted at Hield being a starter once the 76ers get back to full strength. While I do think it would be a tough look for Melton to be moved to the bench amid an injury, I think what Hield brings offensively is more valuable than Melton’s more balanced 3-and-D play style, especially since Batum usually guards the opponent’s best perimeter player. Plus, Melton has plenty of experience coming off the bench, so he should work nicely in the second unit with Maxey.

The idea of a Maxey-Melton-Hield-Batum-Embiid starting lineup is very alluring but probably too small than what the Sixers want to go to. That, plus a lineup with Covington in place of Melton, should be regular staples of Nurse’s rotation when everyone gets back.

Other thoughts:

  • Oubre naming Wanda Sykes as a Marvel hero when he meant to say Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) on the timeout video was hilarious. Council saying himself as his final guess was great, too.

The 76ers will now head into the break as Maxey prepares to play in his first All-Star Game and participate in the skills challenge. They’ll pick up after the break with a home matchup against the New York Knicks on Thursday, February 22.

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