MIAMI — The Sixers let the chance to win the season series against the Heat slip by with a 108-99 loss Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
This game was important not only for the separation between the sixth and seventh seeds, but also for a potential playoff tiebreaker. The Sixers dropped to 35-29; the Heat improved to 35-31.
The Sixers won the first two meetings at the Wells Fargo Center and could not grab a win in Miami. They have lost their last seven meetings on the road against the Heat dating back to 2015.
Think players don’t check the standings after a game like this? Joel Embiid does … regularly.
“After every game, literally every day, especially the guys that are in the playoff race with us as far as seedings,” Embiid said at morning shootaround. “After every day’s game, you go and look, you see where you are, if you dropped or if you went up because a team lost.”
• The Sixers have battled with third-quarter letdowns. This time, it was in the fourth that led to the Sixers’ downfall. The Heat opened the final quarter on a 14-4 run to turn the Sixers’ one-point lead into a 10-point deficit, 88-78. The Sixers’ only offense during that stretch came from free throws. The Heat created too much distance for the Sixers to overcome with a late-game push.
“I think the physicality definitely was there,” Ben Simmons said. “I think for us, we just didn’t come ready. First quarter, we looked like we were ready to go come out and play. Then we just showed a lack of composure and just didn’t stay with it.”
• Embiid has not been satisfied with his recent performances and he struggled against the Heat. The big man shot 5 for 18 from the field for 17 points, seven rebounds and five fouls. Embiid competed in his 10th straight game Thursday, not including the NBA All-Star Game. He is still getting adjusted to this new (and unfamiliar) frequency of playing time. It remains to be seen if the Sixers rest Embiid sometime soon.
“Obviously I was sh--ty,” Embiid summed it up.
• There hadn’t been too much to the social-media-sparked matchup between Embiid and Hassan Whiteside all season. In fact, it had been pretty tame. The two bigs, however, swapped elbows and arm grabs in the third quarter on one play. Whiteside was whistled for a technical foul, while Embiid was called for his fourth personal. Whiteside got the better of this battle, scoring a game-high 26 points with eight rebounds.
“[He] tried hit me in the back, which is kind of dirty because of the fact that I’ve had back problems,” Embiid said (see story). “So we’re going to see about that. I won’t forget about that.”
• Robert Covington is a streaky offensive player. Sometimes a hot night can jump-start a stretch of games. After scoring a team-high 22 points against the Hornets in the previous game, though, Covington shot 0 for 10 from the field and 0 for 5 from three in 29 minutes (seven rebounds). His three points came at the line. Covington did not attempt his first basket until two minutes into the second quarter, a cutting layup rather than his usual outside looks.
• Simmons started the game with impressive dunks but netted only two points in the fourth quarter (10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists). The bigger issue wasn't his scoring, though. Simmons committed five turnovers after only one in the previous game.