76ers

Heat 122, Sixers 99: In Dwyane Wade's last dance, shorthanded Sixers fall to Heat

Heat 122, Sixers 99: In Dwyane Wade's last dance, shorthanded Sixers fall to Heat

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It looked like one team was fighting for its playoff life and trying to send off an NBA legend in grand fashion, while the other team … wasn’t.

In Dwyane Wade’s final game in Miami, the Heat beat up on the shorthanded Sixers, 122-99, at American Airlines Arena.

With Joel Embiid, JJ Redick and Mike Scott resting and the Eastern Conference’s third seed all wrapped up, this game didn’t profile well for a win. Miami went 6 of 9 from three on its way to a 34-20 first-quarter lead and the Sixers never recovered.

The loss drops them to 50-31 on the season.

Here are observations from the game:

• If you were expecting D-Wade to pull a Kobe Bryant and jack up 40 shots in his farewell, sorry for the disappointment. Wade simply played his game and was very good, scoring 30 points in 34 minutes. The 13-time All-Star looks like he could keep going, but good for the 37-year-old for hanging it up on his own terms.

• For most of the game, Ben Simmons and Boban Marjanovic looked like the only truly effective Sixers. 

Simmons pushed the tempo and was looking to score on his drives. He was scoring efficiently, but wasn’t doing much in the assist department — a big ask when your team shoots below 40 percent (when Simmons was in the game) from the field. He played just 21 minutes in this one, finishing with 16 points on 7 of 12.

Marjanovic was his usual efficient self offensively, going 6 of 10 for 12 points, but also showed why playing him as Embiid’s backup in the postseason is a concern. Both Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside were able to sneak behind Marjanovic for easy lobs. Both centers also hit jumpers that Marjanovic couldn’t get out to contest.

• Speaking of the backup center spot, Jonah Bolden was questionable with knee soreness coming in and played just 12 minutes before heading to the locker room for the night. There’s certainly concern there. Bolden could be a key piece for this team as Brett Brown has also used Bolden at the four recently.

• Jimmy Butler was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with back tightness. He looked predictably rusty, going 2 of 5 for four points in 15 first-half minutes. Butler is close with Wade and likely didn't want to miss this one.

Tobias Harris, who is currently on pace to play 83 games this season, was ice cold from the field, going 3 of 16 for six points. He played 20 minutes in the first half and also did not return.

Brown emptied out his bench in this one as even Haywood Highsmith got run. The rookie wing actually broke up an attempt by Wade to throw a ball off the backboard for a dunk in the fourth. I get the conext of the moment for Wade, but good for Highsmith.

• We got our first look at Zhaire Smith as a starter and our first look at Furkan Korkmaz since Feb. 12.

Smith continues to show off the traits that made him a first-round pick. He has such quick feet and decent instincts defensively. He also filled lanes well and showed a little something as a cutter. Simmons hit him on one look out of the post which drew a foul. Simmons tried a lob for the rookie a little later, but threw it too high for even the freakishly athletic Smith. He also had a nice finish over Whiteside after the veteran center blocked him earlier. That fearlessness will help if the 19-year-old gets playoff minutes. He's also been solid from three, going 4 of 11 in five games.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Korkmaz, but as was the case when he was getting regular minutes earlier this season, it was a mixed bag. You saw plenty of lapses on the defensive end, but he did make a nice read on one possession, getting into a passing lane, getting a steal and an easy bucket. His calling card is supposed to be his shot, but he’s shooting just 33 percent from three this season. He missed his only attempt from three in seven minutes.

Jonathon Simmons also got his first extended minutes in quite some time and actually looked pretty good. On the defensive end, you can see why a team once signed him to a decent NBA deal. He's struggled on offense, but put up 14 points on 5 of 9 and also dished out eight assists. It’s been a little surprising to not see Simmons get back into the mix when James Ennis got hurt. He lost “the tournament” to Ennis, but has a wealth of playoff experience.

With Ennis likely to miss multiple playoff games, someone will need to give the Sixers a couple minutes from the wing. None of the choices are ideal, but with defense being at a premium during the postseason, I'd go with Smith. He's active and can keep a guard in front of him. Let the kid play.

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Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid out vs. Knicks with left shoulder sprain

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid out vs. Knicks with left shoulder sprain

Joel Embiid is out for the Sixers' game Thursday night vs. the Knicks with a left shoulder sprain, a team spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Embiid was out.

Embiid is undergoing an evaluation today, the spokesperson said.

Norvel Pelle, who'd missed the team's last two games with an upper respiratory illness, is available to play. Kyle O'Quinn served as the team's third-string center Wednesday and was called into meaningful duty for the first time since Jan. 20, posting six points and four blocks. 

In the first quarter of the Sixers' 108-94 loss Wednesday night to the Cavaliers, Embiid collided with Ante Zizic while looking to gain position in the post and grabbed at his left shoulder in apparent pain. He grimaced while missing two free throws, and the Sixers then had Furkan Korkmaz take a foul to create a stoppage so Embiid could go back to the locker room.

Though Embiid returned to the bench briefly early in the second quarter, he had a short conversation with head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson and then returned to the locker room. He talked with general manager Elton Brand in the tunnel. Brand had said in September that he'd be "more a part of it with the players in a partnership for their care."

The Sixers are already without their other All-Star, Ben Simmons. He has nerve impingement in his lower back and is set to be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks.

Without Simmons and Embiid, the Sixers will look to improve their NBA-best home record to 28-2 with a win over the Knicks. Overall, the team is 36-23 and a half-game behind the Heat for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

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This is fine — the Sixers' season is just crumbling before our eyes

This is fine — the Sixers' season is just crumbling before our eyes

Someone in the Sixers’ organization must’ve stepped on a broken mirror while walking under a ladder and petting a black cat.

This is fine.

We’re just watching the Sixers’ 2019-20 season crumble right before our eyes.

Some of this is horrendous luck. Some of this is of their own doing. In some cases, it’s a little of both.

Just a day after we found out Ben Simmons would be out for at least two weeks with nerve impingement in his lower back, Joel Embid was forced to leave Wednesday’s game in Cleveland with a shoulder sprain.

The team then went on to lose to a Cavs team that had won 16 games coming in, putting the Sixers at 9-21 on the road this season.

While we don’t know the full extent of Embiid’s injury, it doesn’t bode well. With Simmons already out, the Sixers need Embiid to be the dominant player that put up a career-high 49 points on Monday. If both players are on the shelf for an extended period, who knows how far this team could fall.

This is fine.

Thanks to the Miami Heat’s recent swoon, the Sixers remain just a half game out of the fourth spot with 23 games remaining. 

The fourth spot. The fourth spot.

This team was supposedly built for the playoffs and to conceivably win a championship. Their head coach boldly claimed he wanted the No. 1 seed. Instead, they may end up a fifth seed, meaning they’d start the playoffs on the road, where I’m sure their woes away from home will get sorted out — because that's the time you sort these things out, right?

Where’s the smash mouth offense and bully ball defense Brett Brown promised? The Sixers instead got smacked in the mouth away from the Wells Fargo Center yet again by a team playing out the string. 

This is fine.

The players who were supposed to complement Embiid and Simmons and pick up the slack for them when they were off the floor have not done so. The trio of Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson and Al Horford — that will make over $70 million combined this season — shot 12 of 35 Wednesday.

Second-year guard and 2018 second-round pick Shake Milton outplayed Harris and Richardson. Kyle O’Quinn, who makes the veteran minimum and hasn’t played meaningful minutes since Jan. 20, outplayed Horford. That can’t happen. That especially can’t happen when you’re missing your two All-Stars and playing the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In his first season here, Richardson has questioned his team's lack of effort, accountability and on Wednesday, its heart.

This is fine.

Maybe Embiid’s injury won’t be serious. Maybe Simmons’ absence won’t extend for too long beyond the two weeks. Maybe the five starters can figure it out and Harris, Richardson and Horford will be able to space the floor like GM Elton Brand thought they would. Maybe they can become a defensive bully yet.

Maybe.

"That still is my goal — keeping the boys in the boat, landing the plane, keeping our form, our health all that stuff — [keeping] our spirit the way that it needs to be," Brown said to reporters postgame. "We will move on from this. It’s a good thing we’re in the NBA. In 24 hours you’ve got a chance to move this aside and go try to find a way."

You figure the Sixers’ luck has to change at some point, but time is running out. This season is getting away from them.

This is fine.

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