Miami Heat

After insane end to regulation, Sixers drop heartbreaker to Heat in overtime

After insane end to regulation, Sixers drop heartbreaker to Heat in overtime

BOX SCORE

A night after a disappointing showing in Orlando, the Sixers suffered a crushing defeat in Miami. 

After overcoming a second-half deficit, the Sixers lost an absolute wild one to the Heat, 117-116, at AmericanAirlines Arena Saturday night.

The craziness began when Tobias Harris missed a dunk that likely would've sealed the game with 18 seconds left. Joel Embiid was then stripped by Jimmy Butler and rookie Tyler Herro knocked down a three with 6.9 seconds left to put Miami up 107-106.

After an Embiid turnover, Butler was fouled and made 1 of 2 from the line. As Josh Richardson dribbled up the floor with the clock winding down, he was inexplicably fouled with one second left. Richardson missed the first free throw, then missed the second one on purpose.

Ben Simmons was able to gather the rebound and in one motion put the ball back in with 0.6 seconds left. It was initially called a violation as the officials thought the ball didn't hit the rim. After a review, the call was overturned to tie it up at 108-108 and send the game to overtime.

Al Horford, who had a rough night, fouled Butler off a switch with 2.3 seconds to go in overtime. Butler made 1 of 2 to give the Heat a one-point lead. Harris got a great look at a corner three but his tough shooting night continued (4 of 15).

The Sixers are now just 7-10 on the road and 23-12 overall. Their road trip continues in Indiana on Tuesday against the Pacers (3 p.m./NBCSP)

Here are observations from the loss:

‘The crown jewel’ did all he could

After the Heat got off to a hot start and jumped out to an early lead, Embiid took things over during his second stint of the first quarter. He immediately came in and scored an and-one dunk after a nice high-low pass by Ben Simmons and an ill-advised foul by Kelly Olynyk.

A couple possessions later, he came up with this ridiculous and-one on Bam Adebayo.

Embiid lived at the charity stripe in the first half, going 8 of 8 and 11 of 12 overall. He was spectacular down the stretch outside of those tough turnovers, finishing with 35 points (11 of 16) and 11 rebounds.

But when Embiid was off the floor …

Horford looked so good in helping the Sixers to a Christmas Day victory over the Bucks, but his minutes as the team’s backup center didn’t go well Saturday. He was a team-worst minus-25 and seemed to struggle with the pick-and-roll actions Miami was throwing at him.

There have been times when Horford has looked every bit of 33 years old. This was one of those nights.

With Trey Burke providing a spark, Brett Brown opted for the scoring guard over Horford late in the game and in overtime. Brown opted to go defense for offense on that last possession, but Horford wound up on Butler on a bad switch.

The good and the bad from Simmons

There was an aggressiveness to Simmons early, but he was having trouble finishing. You could tell there was nobody on Miami that can stay with Simmons physically. Despite struggling from the field, Simmons’ attacking style of play led to six first-half assists and zero turnovers. He also had a couple huge finishes on lobs from Richardson in overtime and finished with 15 points (6 of 12), 11 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

This is yet another game where you have to laud Simmons’ defense. He did an unbelievable job on Butler, who didn’t get his first field goal until the 1:10 mark of the second quarter. Butler finished just 7 of 21 from the field overall as Simmons came up with huge stops against him down the stretch. The offensive game continues to be up and down, but this guy is having an All-Defensive Team type of season.

More struggles with the zone

Remember when all we talked about was zone defense? It felt like the debate and discussion went on for a month, but in reality, it was just two games — starting with the Sixers’ loss to Miami a couple weeks ago.

When Erik Spoelstra went to it, Brett Brown’s team was ready and busted it pretty well early.

Then in the second half, they looked awful against it as Miami won the third quarter, 31-20. They continue to not work the ball in and penetrate the zone. Too often they make one pass and shoot on the perimeter. What that’s led to is long misses and transition opportunities the other way. 

Burke shines, but could’ve used more from the bench

Burke provided a nice spark for the Sixers with 11 points on 5 of 9 and four assists.

He actually helped bust the zone a bit by getting penetration and making a couple shots. Defensively, Herro ran him through screens and Burke struggled to fight through it. 

Furkan Korkmaz and Mike Scott couldn’t get it going from the field. Korkmaz also committed a couple brutal first-half turnovers and his defense continues to be an issue.

A game like this highlights how much the Sixers miss rookie Matisse Thybulle. Perhaps it also highlights the need for another strong bench piece currently outside the organization.

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Sixers at Heat: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Heat: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 6:56 p.m. 

The mercurial Sixers (23-11) are in Miami to take on Jimmy Butler and the Heat (23-8) Saturday night.

Miami is coming off a crazy, narrow victory over the Pacers while the Sixers delivered a lackluster effort in Orlando Friday night.

Rookie Matisse Thybulle (right knee sprain, bone bruise) remains out. Tobias Harris popped up on the injury report with right hip soreness but will play. Justise Winslow (bone bruise) is in the middle of an extended absence for the Heat.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m.
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

The Sixers giveth and the Sixers taketh away

After taking it to the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas day, the Sixers fell flat in Orlando. They played the offensively-challenged Magic’s game and only got to 97 points because of a ferocious comeback attempt with under two minutes left.

Brett Brown, who was as fiery as we’ve seen him, wasn’t patting his players on the back for their late effort.

I don't even care about it,” Brown told reporters in Orlando postgame. “I really don't even care about it. I don't believe that we should have been in that position. And I think it's hollow praise to go there. I'm not going there. It's a physicality issue that we lost. And in fact, it'll probably end up serving us well. Like it was a playoff-type of movement as far as the physical side of it. And I thought that we responded with a D-minus.

The Sixers face a much tougher opponent Saturday night. It’s hard to imagine they take the Heat lightly.

Go-to elements emerging?

In a game bereft of positives, there is this: The Sixers appear to be finding actions and players they can go to in times when they need a basket.

The pick-and-roll between Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson seems to be growing. When Embiid is engaged and setting good screens, Richardson has the ability to challenge defenses by making midrange shots, taking the ball to the rim or facilitating. Embiid is a handful when he rolls hard to the basket and his recent shooting surge (39.5 percent from three over his last eight games) makes him dangerous when he pops.

Over his last 20-plus games, Harris has been exactly what the Sixers thought they were getting when they traded for and the re-signed him. His ability to score in a variety of ways has been a big boost. He’s a three-level scorer that can be put in a multitude of actions. Even as the team couldn't buy a bucket against the Magic, Harris had a mismatch on Evan Fournier that he attacked.

When the Sixers’ offense has struggled, part of it has been because they’ve lacked a “go-to” element. A couple may be emerging.

The Heat aren’t going away

The Heat are perhaps the biggest surprise in the NBA along with the Dallas Mavericks.

And it doesn’t look like they’re going away any time soon, led by likely All-Stars Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Miami has almost been the opposite of the Sixers. For the most part, they’ve taken care of inferior opponents but haven’t done as well against the NBA’s elite.

This is already the third time these teams will square off. In the first matchup, the Sixers bullied the Heat from opening tip and cruised to a win. A few weeks later, Miami got their revenge by deploying a zone that had the Sixers in a funk for a couple games.

It’s a shame that they play their last game against each other on Feb. 3. It would’ve been fun to see where these teams are against each other during the stretch run.

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What happened on Sixers' final possession vs. Heat?

What happened on Sixers' final possession vs. Heat?

While the Sixers’ loss Wednesday night had more to do with their inability to thwart Miami’s zone, they still had a chance in the end.

After a Tobias Harris three from the corner pulled the Sixers within two with 12 seconds left, rookie Kendrick Nunn missed a pair of free throws. With Brett Brown losing his final timeout on a challenge of a Joel Embiid foul, Ben Simmons took the ball off the rim and ran.

As Simmons looked to drive, the other four players spaced things out to clear the lane and provide Simmons outlets. It looked like initially Josh Richardson was open in the opposite corner but was quickly covered up.

It appeared that maybe Embiid could’ve run faster and made a better effort to get on the block and get early post position on Bam Adebayo. Instead, Embiid resorted to the trail position where he takes the bulk of his threes.

This was another example of where Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot hurts the Sixers. When you watch the replay, Simmons doesn’t even look at the rim. He turns his back to Nunn and immediately looks for an outlet. In this situation, Simmons could’ve either posted the 6-foot-2 Nunn or simply shot over him from roughly 10 feet.

Simmons didn’t speak postgame, but his likely response would’ve been that he was looking for a better shot. There is some fairness to that. Simmons’ jumper from 10 feet likely isn’t the best shot for the Sixers’ offense, but the fact that he doesn’t appear to be even looking to score is a problem.

Ultimately, the Sixers didn’t get a terrible look. Al Horford missed a three that would’ve put them in front and likely won them the game. After a torrid run, Horford has been struggling from three recently, hitting just 2 of his last 19 including that miss.

Again, if it doesn’t take the Sixers over two quarters to figure out the zone, they’re never in this mess, but it does give a glimpse into some of their bigger issues.

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