The tanking portion of The Process is over, but the Philadelphia 76ers still haven’t gotten the involuntary losing out of their system. Through 36 minutes of their contest against the Miami Heat, Philadelphia maintained a 26-point lead. However, just as they did against Boston in London on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Portland on Dec. 29 and Golden State on Nov. 18, among other occasions the Sixers mentally retreated to the locker room early, getting outscored 37-17 in the fourth.
Yet, until the final minute, the outcome was a toss-up. An Embiid mid-range jumper from the wing pushed the lead to nine with 58 seconds to go, however, Bam Adebayo sliced the lead to seven with two made free throws on the ensuing possession. After another stop, Wayne Ellington raised the stakes by drilling a contested three and Ben Simmons’ inbounds pass slipped through Robert Covington’s hands.
Fortunately for Philadelphia, Justise Winslow got too excited and tried to lob a pass to a backdoor cutting Wayne Ellington that was intercepted and sucked the air out of Miami’s rally and Philadelphia won 103-97.
Miami lost, but the grit and savvy it exhibited was indicative of the distinction between Miami and Philadelphia’s cultures. Philadelphia is a team that invents ways to lose, and the Heat are a scrappy defense-first unit that is perpetually overachieving. If there was a team that should have spent the last two seasons tanking, it is Miami in the post-LeBron, Bosh and Wade era. Instead, the Heat went 30-11 in the second half of the 2016-17 season after losing 30 of their first 41 games, then clawed their way into arm’s length of the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Miami constantly lifts themselves off the mat, similarly to how they did Friday night. With the game out of hand Eric Spoelstra pulled his starters, turning to reserves, Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Adebaryo, Ellington off the bench. What may have appeared to be a surrender was actually Miami putting their best lineup on the floor. Those four constitute four-fifths of Miami’s fearsome Platinum Group and Spoelstra had them playing all the right notes as Brett Brown and the Sixers were searching their bearings.
Due to a stomach bug, Hassan Whiteside played only 18 minutes. In his stead, Adebayo was the impetus for Miami’s rally, scoring 10 points in the fourth frame and finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Overall, the Heat’s Platinum Group outscored Philadelphia’s starters 57 to 40. If Goran Dragic, Miami’s only All-Star, has his way, changes could be coming to the Heat starting lineup.
Via Miami Herald:
“The starting unit, we need to change something. The last few games we were not good. The bench plays with a lot of energy. They were unbelievable. They almost came back. But you need all 10, 11 players. Sometimes we get affected by if we don’t shoot the ball well. It kind of carries over to defense and it shouldn’t.”
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