What the hell just happened?
After winning Games 3 and 4 and seemingly gaining all the momentum in the series, the Sixers laid an egg in a critical Game 5, losing to the Heat, 120-85, in Miami Tuesday night. Heading back to Philly Thursday, they’re one loss away from elimination, trailing in the series, 3-2.
I would recommend “burning the tape,” but here are a few observations from a brutal night.
- Really liked the Sixers’ pace early. James Harden pushed and found Joel Embiid running the floor for a layup. Harden pushed it again and got a pretty and-one. Then, the Sixers completely forgot how to throw an entry pass.
- If the Sixers can just slow down Jimmy Butler a little, they have a great chance. Jimmy has been unstoppable the last few games. Sixers appear to be giving Butler threes, which is the right strategy, but they have to stick to it and not be so aggressive on closeouts.
- First road team to make shots wins the series, apparently. Sixers just 2 of 7 from three to start. Meanwhile, Max Strus, who mightily struggled in Philly, has already canned three threes.
- The Sixers tried to go zone — something Doc Rivers has favored with Georges Niang in the game — with mixed results. The story was Butler (11 points) and Miami hitting shots (5 of 11 from deep), while the Sixers shot poorly and played sloppily. They’ve committed four turnovers and given up four offensive rebounds, giving the Heat six extra field goal attempts. Miami leads 31-19 after one.
- The Sixers staying zone to start the quarter. No Embiid or Harden, for some reason.
- Shake Milton hits a three, but Niang is now 0 for 2 and Tyrese Maxey is 0 for 3. Maxey has to get it going a little before the third. He’s scoreless so far.
- Milton and Paul Reed giving the Sixers a little life. Milton with a couple aggressive drives and Reed with two offensive rebounds. Sixers get it under 10 with 7:39 left after a strong Maxey drive ends with two free throws and his first two points of the night.
- Doc using Embiid and Reed on the floor together! I’ve been wanting to get a look at this since the Toronto series. Should help big time on the glass and give an interesting look with the zone. Frankly, Reed has earned some extra minutes tonight.
- Terrifying moment. Embiid took a shot to the face when going up for an offensive rebound. It looked like Dewayne Dedmon got all ball, but the ball itself smashed up against Embiid’s face. He was down and appearing like he was in a lot of pain as the team’s medical staff rushed onto the floor. Embiid stood up and got to the bench under his own power. Doc picked up a technical, but looking at the replay, Dedmon doesn’t actually make contact with Embiid. Credit to Embiid for staying in the game. This is a tough, tough dude.
- The Sixers were such a good road team all season long — and won two games in Toronto in the first round — but even with Embiid, they’ve looked disjointed in Miami. Sixers are a total mess on offense and the Heat are seemingly getting whatever they want against man and zone. Sixers trailed by as many as 18 late in the quarter.
- Nothing went right for the Sixers in the first half. Their offense was bad (37.5 percent) and their defense wasn’t any better (Heat shooting 47.7 percent, 38.9 from three). Nine turnovers led to 15 points on the other end. Miami looked like the much more engaged team in front of its home crowd. Embiid facing serious double teams and is just 2 of 6. He understandably has had trouble finding his offensive form since returning. The lone offensive bright spot was Harden, who had 10 points and four assists. Butler carrying the load with 14 points, but the Heat were pretty balanced in the second. Victor Oladipo had an effective run off the bench with 11 points. Sixers lucky to be down 56-44.
- Good sign as Embiid hits a jumper to start the quarter. Then, it was more of the same from the Sixers. Showing little fight in what is historically a critical situation (a Game 5 when the series is tied 2-2). Midway through the quarter and Miami has extended its halftime lead to 66-51. Poor time for Maxey to have his worst game of the postseason. He’s 1 of 7 and looks hesitant.
- The Sixers are playing like it’s a random game in mid-January. No life on either end. No movement on offense. Chasing and scrambling on defense. No doubt the Heat are playing at a much higher level than they did in Games 3 and 4, but the Sixers are showing little fight. Miami up 20 late in the period.
- Signs of life from Embiid with back-to-back sneakers. Not a great sign when the guy with the broken face and torn ligament in his thumb is the only one doing anything.
- What is it with the Sixers and Game 5s? This isn’t as embarrassing as what happened against the Hawks last season, but it’s pretty damn embarrassing. Sixers trail 81-66 with no inclination of anything resembling a comeback in the works.
- Heat scores the first 12 points of the fourth. Putrid effort.
- Nothing worth talking about in this fourth quarter. To come out with that effort in a pivotal Game 5 is inexcusable. You knew the Heat would come out looking to deliver the first punch. To their credit, they made adjustments and were the better team in every capacity tonight — but to not even offer a counterpunch is supremely disappointing. The Sixers are going to have to be a hell of a lot better on Thursday or start booking their offseason trips.