The Philadelphia 76ers picked up their most significant win of the 2021-2022 NBA season last Saturday when they took down the NBA powerhouse that is the Golden State Warriors. Then, they followed up that win with a dud against the Memphis Grizzlies as they fell way-short by losing 126-91 on Monday.
After getting the day off on Tuesday, the Sixers re-grouped on Wednesday night for a home game against the Miami Heat. While the Sixers, unfortunately, lost two reserves in Georges Niang and Furkan Korkmaz as they dealt with different illnesses, the team got back two starters as Joel Embiid and Seth Curry were cleared for action.
Considering the Sixers were relatively healthy, and the Miami Heat missed several key players, including Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and more, Philadelphia should have been able to take advantage of an Eastern Conference playoff contender that was undermanned on Wednesday.
But the Sixers found themselves down early. In the first quarter, the Heat outscored the 76ers 29-18. At a point during the first half, the Heat led by as many as 19 points. While the Sixers trailed just nine points at halftime, Miami found a way to put the Sixers in a 23-point hole in the third quarter.
"You know, we came out flat at the beginning of the game," said Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey after the game. "And then again at the second half."
While Maxey's 15-point second-half performance helped the Sixers climb back and tie the game at a point, the young guard believes that it was too little too late for the Sixers as they lost the momentum by the time they fought back.
"The fight was resilient," Maxey continued. "Everybody who stepped on the court had an extreme amount of fight and determination to get back in the game. It's tough when you exert all your energy like that to come back on a good team. It's hard to win."
Sixers center Joel Embiid agrees with Maxey's sentiment that starting slow affected their team more than anything. But the veteran All-Star also believes that Miami's defensive scheme got the best of Philly's offensive attack.
"I thought first off, we put ourselves in a hole to start the game, and we didn't respond until the last couple minutes of the third," Embiid explained. "Obviously, we made a push in the fourth, and I mean, it looks like they affected us with the zone, and we just couldn't catch up on the pulse. We couldn't make any threes but we gotta start off with a mentality to, you know, try to win the game."
The Sixers found themselves with a chance to force overtime, but a missed three-pointer by Embiid in the final seconds of the game sealed the deal for a Miami victory. By falling short 101-96, the Sixers picked up their 14th loss of the year. Now, they'll have zero downtime as they head to Brooklyn for a Thursday night matchup against the Nets.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.