There was only one thing that could overshadow Jimmy Butler’s return to the Wells Fargo Center: a blowout.
A game with so much buildup became lopsided in a hurry as the Sixers had their most impressive performance of the young season in a 113-86 drubbing of the Heat Saturday night.
Butler was lustily booed every time he touched the basketball and Ben Simmons was instrumental in disrupting his former teammate and the Miami offense. Josh Richardson, who came over from the Heat in the sign-and-trade for Butler, made his former team pay all night.
The Sixers improved to 7-0 at home and 11-5 overall. They’ll travel back to the place last season ended for a date with the Raptors Monday.
Here are observations from the win:
A dominant performance
The Sixers’ defense was stifling all night. Miami simply couldn’t get the looks it wanted. The Heat came into the game as one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league. They went just 1 of 12 in the first half and finished just 6 of 24, thanks in large part to the Sixers’ D.
Miami has been the worst team in the league in terms of taking care of the basketball. That trend continued as it turned the ball over 10 times and had just two assists in the first half, allowing the Sixers to build a 55-35 advantage.
The Sixers never let off the gas. They started the second half on a 10-0 run on their way to a 37-24 third quarter.
Offensively, this was easily one of the Sixers’ best games. They moved the ball well and seemed to be playing a little more selfishly — in a good way. Guys are starting to find their spots on the floor and go. Also, don’t look now, but the Sixers are shooting the ball much better recently. They were 14 of 29 from three Saturday.
J-Rich revenge game and the attack of the midrange
Lost in all the Butler drama was the fact that Richardson was squaring off against his former team. And he might have had his finest game as a Sixer.
Richardson showed off a little bit of what the Sixers have missed while he was out the last two games with right hip flexor tightness. Brett Brown mentioned pregame that the biggest thing they’ve missed about Richardson is his ability to handle the basketball and “get into cracks.” He’s excellent at navigating around screens and punishing teams in the midrange.
He also had the long-range stroke going.
Josh Richardson is just laughing out loud at this point 😂— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 24, 2019
He's got 25 against his former team now. pic.twitter.com/u2IPXyNLy9
He had a season- and game-high 32 points (11 of 15, 6 of 7 from three) and four assists.
Speaking of the midrange, Al Horford feasted there Saturday. He loves the elbow and elbow extended jumpers and buried four of them in the first half. Horford talked after the San Antonio game about how the analytics don’t favor those shots, but that the Sixers have multiple players that excel there. Horford finished with 16 points (7 of 9) with six rebounds and three assists.
The starting five as a whole was excellent and the newest additions put their thumbprint on the offense. This was easily the best game they played together.
Simmons on another level
Ben Simmons always plays 100 mph. Over the last couple games, he’s been around 110. This was a prime example of how Simmons can take over a game while barely even shooting the basketball. He threw off the Heat’s entire offense with his tough defense on Butler and pushed the ball constantly on the other end.
BEN SWIPIN SIMMONS.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 24, 2019
He picks off the Heat and sends to over to Ennis for the lay in. pic.twitter.com/Dl5GqAUQZ2
We truly appear to be seeing the evolution of Simmons’ game. It’s great that he took and made a three, but the way he impacts a game on both ends is what has truly stood out. Simmons had just four points, but had eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
As is the case on most nights, the opposition had no answers for Joel Embiid.
Meyers Leonard did not have a good time on this play.
JOEL EMBIID IS A NATIONAL TREASURE.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 24, 2019
Just look at how he flexes after cooking the Heat for a bucket. pic.twitter.com/Bx6FlM2rto
A big reason for the better ball movement was because of Embiid’s decisiveness. He was making quick moves and recognizing double teams to get the ball out quickly. Brown talked about Embiid playing more of a “steady” game Friday night against the Spurs. He played a similar style Saturday.
Brown also talked about not wanting Embiid to “float” around the perimeter and spend his time on the block. He did that in the first half, but then knocked down 2 of 3 from three on the Sixers’ first three possessions of the second half.
In a back-to-back situation, it was mighty impressive to see Embiid hustle on this block on Duncan Robinson.
He recorded 23 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in just 26 minutes.
Tobias’ ‘scorer’s mentality’
Brown has also repeatedly talked about wanting Tobias Harris to have a “scorer’s mentality.” Against the Knicks Wednesday, Harris took just two shots in the second half. The last two nights, he has been as aggressive as we’ve seen him in a Sixers uniform. He’s posting up smaller defenders and finding his spots off the ball. It’s taken a bit, but Harris may finally be settling into his role. Harris had 19 points (7 of 11) and eight rebounds in 26 minutes.
You know, this song is still stuck in our heads too, Jimmy. pic.twitter.com/0PwwJ1gm7J— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 24, 2019
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