To say the finish of the Sixers’ loss to the Heat Saturday night was wild would be a gross understatement.
The craziness started with a fury after a missed dunk with 18 seconds left in regulation and ended with a whimper on a made free throw in overtime to give Miami the 117-116 win (see observations).
To the Sixers’ credit, it was a much better effort than what they gave the previous night in Orlando. They scratched and clawed and had a great chance to beat a good team on the second half of a road back-to-back.
Instead, a few late-game miscues and rough nights from a couple starters had them on the losing end after Tobias Harris missed a clean look from the corner at the buzzer.
“I felt like we did some really good things,” Brett Brown said to reporters in Miami. “We put ourselves in a position to win. I thought we executed some stuff down at the end with Ben [Simmons] behind the zone and doing some different things there. Tobias’ look was a pretty good look.”
Harris has been excellent over the last 20 games or so, but just had one of those nights. He finished 4 of 15 with one of his misses coming on a dunk attempt that would’ve put the Sixers up four with 18 seconds left and another on the final possession.
Al Horford didn’t have a banner night, either. The veteran big struggled mightily as Joel Embiid’s backup. The Heat went small and attacked him in pick-and-rolls. He was a team-worst minus-25 and lost minutes down the stretch and in overtime to Trey Burke, who gave the Sixers a spark.
The Sixers still had their chances. After Harris missed his dunk, Simmons came down with the offensive rebound and got the ball to Embiid. As Embiid stood by the sideline expecting to get fouled, Jimmy Butler poked the ball away. Butler then found Tyler Herro on the wing and the rookie buried a ridiculous three on the wing with 6.9 seconds left.
The Sixers set up a play to Embiid on the ensuing possession and he was swarmed upon, creating another turnover.
“From the sideline, it seemed like time still stood a little bit,” Brown said about Embiid’s initial turnover. “I kept expecting him to go find one of those open players. I bet when you ask him, and I haven’t, he will say, ‘Well, I’m 7-foot-2, I’m an 80-whatever percent free throw shooter. They’re going to foul me and I’m going to go bring this home.’ He may have regrets on making that decision, but I thought that’s what he was going to do, is throw it.”
It's hard to harp on Embiid too much. He was excellent for most of the night, pouring in a game-high 35 points. Even after those turnovers, the Sixers somehow weren’t dead.
After Butler made 1 of 2 from the line, the Sixers had no timeouts and just 3.3 seconds left on the clock to get a look. As Josh Richardson raced up the floor, Goran Dragic inexplicably fouled him. Richardson, an 81.3 percent career free throw shooter, missed the first.
Then, Simmons had an incredible put back after Richardson missed the second attempt on purpose to force overtime.
“I thought Ben creeping in to get that put back on the offensive rebound, [Josh] purposefully trying to miss, was a well-executed play that they ran,” Brown said. “I give our guys credit for doing that. … And so to do lots of good things and then just at the end make some plays that you wished you had back makes it difficult to swallow.”
Brown elected to go back to Horford late in overtime for defensive purposes. Unfortunately, he was switched onto Butler, who was able to draw a foul and make 1 of 2 to get the win. Simmons had done a masterful job on Butler all game long as the former Sixer was just 7 of 21 from the field.
It’s a brutal loss against a quality team and the Sixers simply have to regroup as their four-game road trip continues Tuesday in Indiana.
“Every loss has to build character,” Richardson said. “You can’t just sulk about it. We’ve gotta take things from yesterday, we’ve gotta take things from today. We’ve gotta be computers — just keep taking in new data and put it into our game plan.”
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