What just happened?
After winning Games 3 and 4 and seemingly gaining all the momentum of the series, the Sixers laid an egg in a critical Game 5, losing to the Heat, 120-85, in Miami on Tuesday night. Back in Philadelphia on Thursday, they are one loss away from elimination, trailing the series, 3-2.
I would recommend “burning the tape”, but here are some observations from a brutal night.
- Really liked the pace of the Sixers early on. James Harden pushed and found Joel Embiid running down the floor for a lay-up. Harden shoved it again and got a nice and one. Then the Sixers completely forgot how to throw an entry pass.
- If the Sixers can just slow Jimmy Butler down a bit, they have a great chance. Jimmy has been unstoppable in recent games. The sixers seem to be giving Butler threes, which is the right strategy, but they need to stick with it and not be so aggressive on the fences.
- Apparently the first road team to make shots wins the series. Sixers just 2 of 7 from three to start. Meanwhile, Max Strus, who struggled mightily in Philadelphia, has already canned three threes.
- The Sixers tried to go into the zone – something Doc Rivers favored with Georges Niang in the game – with mixed results. The story was Butler (11 points) and Miami hitting shots (5 of 11 from deep), while the Sixers shot poorly and played carelessly. They committed four turnovers and gave up four offensive rebounds, giving the Heat six more field goal attempts. Miami leads 31-19 after one.
- The Sixers stay in the area to start the quarter. Not Embiid or Harden, for some reason.
- Shake Milton hit a three, but Niang is now 0 for 2 and Tyrese Maxey is 0 for 3. Maxey needs to get him started just short of the third. It’s aimless at the moment.
- Milton and Paul Reed breathe life into the Sixers. Milton with some aggressive drives and Reed with two offensive rebounds. Sixers get it under 10 with 7:39 left after a solid drive from Maxey ends with two free throws and his first two points of the night.
- Doc using Embiid and Reed on the floor together! I wanted to take a look at this from the Toronto series. Should help a lot of time on the glass and give an interesting look with the area. Frankly, Reed gained a few extra minutes tonight.
- Terrifying moment. Embiid took a shot to the face on the way up for an offensive rebound. It looked like Dewayne Dedmon had all the ball, but the ball itself crashed into Embiid’s face. He was down and appeared to be in severe pain as team medical personnel rushed to the ground. Embiid got up and climbed onto the bench on his own. Doc picked up a technique, but watching the replay, Dedmon doesn’t actually come into contact with Embiid. Credit to Embiid for staying in the game. He’s a tough, tough dude.
- The Sixers have been such a good team on the road all season – and won two games in Toronto in the first round – but even with Embiid they looked scrappy in Miami. The Sixers are a total mess on offense and the Heat seemingly get everything they want against the man and the zone. Sixers trailed by no less than 18 at the end of the quarter.
- Nothing went well for the Sixers in the first half. Their offense was poor (37.5%) and their defense was no better (Heat shooting 47.7%, 38.9 from three). Nine turnovers led to 15 points at the other end. Miami looked like the most committed team in front of their home crowd. Embiid faces serious double teams and is just 2 out of 6. He has understandably struggled to find his attacking form since his return. The only offensive bright spot was Harden, who had 10 points and four assists. Butler carrying the charge with 14 points, but the Heat were fairly balanced in second. Victor Oladipo had an effective exit from the bench with 11 points. The Sixers are lucky to be trailing 56-44.
- Good sign as Embiid hits a pull to start the quarter. Then it was more or less the same for the Sixers. Showing little fight in what is historically a critical situation (a Game 5 when the series is tied 2-2). Midway through the quarter and Miami extended their halftime lead to 66-51. Bad timing for Maxey to have his worst playoff game. He is 1 in 7 and seems hesitant.
- The Sixers are playing like it’s a random game in mid-January. No life at either end. No movement in attack. Chasing and scrambling on defense. There’s no question the Heat are playing at a much higher level than in Games 3 and 4, but the Sixers are fighting little. Miami up 20 at the end of the period.
- Embiid signs of life with back-to-back baskets. It’s not a good sign when the guy with the broken face and the torn thumb ligament is the only one doing anything.
- What about Sixers and Game 5? It’s not as embarrassing as what happened against the Hawks last season, but it’s damn embarrassing. Sixers trail 81-66 with no tilt of anything resembling a running comeback.
- Heat scores the first 12 points of the fourth. Putrid effort.
- Nothing to complain about in this fourth quarter. Coming out with that effort in a pivotal Game 5 is inexcusable. You knew the Heat would come out to throw the first punch. To their credit, they made adjustments and were the better team across the board tonight – but not even offering a counter-attack is hugely disappointing. The Sixers are going to have to be much better on Thursday or start booking their off-season trips.
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