By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Final from Miami. pic.twitter.com/a0Ddgm08O6
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) February 28, 2018
Miami 102, Philadelphia 101 – Box Score
Somebody checks the calendar because I think we may have slipped through a time warp back to 2010. Recently re-acquired by Miami after Cleveland decided he was too washed up to help buddy LeBron James return to the Finals, Dwyane Wade scored 15 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning jumper with 6 seconds remaining.
Wade repeatedly hit contested jumpers, drove to the lane to sink wild floaters, and got Sixers defenders to bite on pump fakes and earn a trip to the free throw line. It all set the stage for an absolutely wild finish in a fiercely contested game between two teams jockeying for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.
After Wade tied the game with three free throws with 27 seconds left, he intentionally fouled Ben Simmons to send the rookie to the line. 2-4 from the line on the game thus far, Simmons again hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the Sixers up by a single point. Wade would hit his eventual game-winner, only for Simmons to draw four defenders in the lane and kick out to a wide-open J.J. Redick at the top of the key. Redick’s shot was off the mark as time expired.
So in the final 30 seconds, one team was intentionally sent to the free throw line and had a wide-open look from behind the arc, and the other took a highly contested long two, but won the game. It was a proud night for the old school, anti-analytics movement.
Prior to the crazy ending, the story of Tuesday’s game was all about how the Sixers fared with Joel Embiid on the bench. The All-Star center dropped 23 points, hitting 3 of 6 threes, and recorded 8 rebounds and 4 assists; he completely controlled the flow of the game, finishing a +12 in his 30 minutes. In the first half, Embiid took a seat with his team ahead, 33-20. Just three and a half minutes later, Brett Brown was forced to shuttle him back into the game, as the Sixers suddenly trailed, 36-35.
Philadelphia did a better job in the second half of coping with an Embiid-less existence. When the big man took a seat midway through the third quarter, Dario Saric scored 9 straight points for the Sixers, part of his 21-point night. Then, when Embiid picked up his 5th personal foul with 11 minutes left in the game, a crisis was averted as the Sixers actually went on an 8-0 run thanks to two Marco Belinelli three-pointers and a Richaun Holmes hook shot. The Sixers need to be able to hold down the fort when Embiid gets a rest; if they had done in the first half what they did in the second, Wade would have never had a chance for his late-game heroics.
During the game, we also received our unofficial to who the Sixers will cut to sign Ersan Ilyasova. While Trevor Booker did not take the court, Richaun Holmes played 17 quality minutes, logging time both as a power forward next to Embiid and a brief stint as the backup center. Holmes played extremely well, bringing his usual energy on both ends with 6 points, 7 rebounds, and a pair of blocks. It will be interesting to see whether he sticks in the rotation after Ilyasova’s arrival. Personally, I’d like to see Brown try going with a smaller lineup and cut down to Amir Johnson’s minutes, who has been awful lately.
With the loss, the Sixers missed another opportunity to move up in the standings, and remain in 7th place with the Heat now two games back. A tough test awaits Thursday night in Cleveland against the new-look Cavaliers and a revitalized LeBron James. Unlike his friend and fellow 2003 draft class member, Dwyane Wade, LeBron doesn’t need to step out of a time machine for one night to still dominate the action.