The 76ers have played three games so far against the Miami Heat in round two of the NBA playoffs. For the Sixers especially, this hasn’t been a pretty series. However, that is largely due to the absence of superstar center Joel Embiid in games one and two. What was looking like a potential sweep turned into a real series after the Sixers dominated in Embiid’s game three return.
In the two games in Miami, the 76ers looked lost as a team without their big man. With DeAndre Jordan as their starting center you’re almost guaranteed to lose. That’s not to say they didn’t put up a fight in either game, but they didn’t have somebody to close the game out. To have an upset win in Miami, all of the Sixers’ stars would have needed to play great basketball. Unfortunately for the Sixers, it was one guy stepping up and the rest not performing to their potential in both of the games.
In game one, it was Tobias Harris. Harris was playing some of the best basketball that we’ve seen him play all season. He was aggressive, attacking the rim, and shooting very well. With the rest of the Sixers having seemingly no energy to play, he tried to put the team on his back. For a while, it was working, but there’s only so much that one man can do.
This was very similar to Maxey’s performance in game two. He was the only player keeping them in striking distance. With nobody else helping, the game slipped away. He finished the night with his second 30+ point game of the playoffs. This is something that Ben Simmons has done just once in his entire career.
Game three was a completely different story for the Sixers. With Joel Embiid back in the lineup, the Sixers were a brand new team. Joel Embiid didn’t play great offensively putting up just 18 points on subpar shooting, but he made his presence known on defense. He held Bam Adebayo to just 9 points after he averaged 24 points a game over the first two games. Embiid also helped with rebounding, which was a huge struggle in the first two games. The game only felt close once or twice, and each time the Sixers regained their momentum and pulled away.
On Sunday night, the Sixers will take on the Heat in game four in hopes of tying the series before heading back to the Sunshine State. With Joel Embiid’s presence on the floor and the home crowd, the Sixers have a good shot of winning game four of this series. They will need to lock down the paint on defense and take good shots to be successful against this Heat team who will bring a lot of depth to the table.