Sixers complete 24-point comeback to defeat Miami

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 104, Miami 102 – Box Score

A 24-point second half lead somehow evaporated before our very eyes. It’s the type of situation Sixers fans sadly have seen far too often this season. Except, on this Valentine’s Day night, there was a plot twist the people of Philadelphia had to love. This time, it was the Sixers who trailed by 24 points early in the third quarter, only to roar all the way back and defeat the Heat by 2 points.

The comeback was made all the more improbable because it happened without Joel Embiid, who was a late scratch for this game with his sore right ankle. Without their All-Star big man, the Sixers looked completely out of sorts in the first half. Sloppy turnovers, multiple technical fouls borne out of frustration, and a stagnant offense that without Embiid to draw defense attention, had to resort to tough jumpers from J.J. Redick and Robert Covington which were off the mark. The referees were even seemingly against the Sixers, as Tony Brothers at one point waived off a Ben Simmons jumper for a 24-second violation when Ben clearly got the shot off in plenty of time (they later reversed it upon review).

Things flipped in a big way after halftime, thanks in large part to an uptick in energy from the big men off the bench. Richaun Holmes and Trevor Booker combined for 20 points and 18 rebounds, with 8 of those boards coming on the offensive end. It’s a credit to Holmes that he rarely plays anymore, but received last-minute word before the game that Embiid would be out and answered the bell with a spirited effort.

Getting in on the bench surge, recent signing Marco Bellinelli, who has been doing nothing but say “Trust the Process” and tweet out Rocky memes since arriving in Philadelphia, further endeared himself to the people here in his Sixers debut. Bellinelli caught fire for a stretch in the second half, hitting 3 three-pointers and scoring 13 of his 17 points after halftime.

Dario Saric also hit a rhythm scoring the basketball in the second half, dropping 14 of his team-high 19 points following the intermission. However, the Sixers wouldn’t have come close to erasing the huge deficit without Ben Simmons, who pulled a T.J. McConnell and recorded his 6th triple-double of the season with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and 4 steals.

There’s been a lot of “Donovan Mitchell should be Rookie of the Year” talk lately because the Jazz have won 11 straight and Mitchell has played a huge role in that turnaround for Utah. But it’s tough to watch what Simmons did Wednesday night and conclude he shouldn’t win the award. He was all over the place defensively, getting into passing lanes, helping clean the defensive glass, and tracking down loose balls.

Then, especially with Embiid out, Ben was the main catalyst for much of the Sixers offense, leading the team out in transition, spoon-feeding Richaun Holmes and Amir Johnson for some buckets underneath, and getting into the paint at will to score around the basket. I don’t know what the opposition is supposed to do when the opposing point guard is finishing something like this:

Just an outstanding effort from the home team to not give up on a night they could have easily packed it in without their best player. With the victory, the Sixers head into the All-Star break riding a 5-game winning streak. They currently sit in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, just 2 games out of 4th place. It’s been mentioned everywhere, but it bears repeating that Philadelphia’s schedule the rest of the way is Charmin-soft. Home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs is an entirely realistic goal. Let’s get it.

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