Considered by many to be title contenders after trading for James Harden midway through the season, the Philadelphia 76ers looked like everything but that on Monday night against the Miami Heat. While the Sixers showed some fight in the first half, they were outcoached and outplayed for much of the game.
Down by as many as 13 points in the first half, the Sixers clawed their way back into it, taking a one-point lead into halftime and leading by as much as five in the third quarter. However, it was pretty much all downhill from there for the Sixers.
After multiple lead changes, the Heat would take a 62-61 lead with just under eight minutes left in the quarter on a Bam Adebayo dunk. Miami never relinquished the lead again and would go on to win 106-92.
James Harden, DeAndre Jordan, and the floundering Philadelphia 76ers
The final score doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, the 76ers lost by 14 (which is despicable), but they were down by 21 when Erik Spoelstra began pulling his starters, and Jimmy Butler didn’t even touch the court for the final 12 minutes of the game.
Philadelphia was an eyesore whenever DeAndre Jordan was on the court. With Embiid ruled out and Paul Reed in foul trouble, he played 17 more minutes than anyone not named Doc Rivers would have liked. He’s no longer an effective rebounder or rim protector, and he’s never brought much offensively, so there’s no real reason for him to be on the court.
Jordan is a liability and a negative asset. In 17 minutes of action, he was a -22. If the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t find any use for him, and he was ineffective in 16 regular-season games with the Sixers, what makes Rivers think he can find value now? Especially against the vaunted Miami Heat.
To make matters worse, Harden continues to play with a lack of aggressiveness. He has rarely looked like the player the Sixers thought they were getting when they traded Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, and Seth Curry at the trade deadline.
In a game where the Sixers desperately needed someone to lead the charge and take over, James Harden attempted just 13 shots, including a measly four attempts in the second half. He finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists, but he shot 38.5 percent from the field and 28.6 percent behind the arc. The Sixers don’t have enough shooters to afford for Harden to be in playmaker mode. They need him to be the scoring threat and killer he once was.
PJ Tucker was the primary defender, but the Heat defense as a whole swarmed and harrassed Harden all night, making it challenging for him to create separation and get easy looks. Despite Miami’s physical style of play, The Beard struggled to create contact and get to the charity, either, attempting just four free-throw attempts.
It’s pretty clear that Miami’s physicality was too much for the Sixers, but it was also evident that this team was not prepared for the magnitude of this game, especially without its best player. Not having a player of Embiid’s caliber available would be a significant blow for any team, but that’s no excuse for Philadelphia’s performance in Game 1. The 76ers lost the battle in virtually every phase of the game, as well as in every major statistical category.
Embiid is expected to miss Game 2 as he continues to work his way through concussion protocols. Whether he suits up or not, the Philadelphia 76erssorely need James Harden to show some resemblance to his old self if they are going to have a real chance to beat this Heat team. Most importantly, Rivers needs to do a better job preparing his team, making in-game adjustments, and holding his stars accountable.