In the final matchup of the regular season between two Eastern Conference playoff contenders, the Miami Heat added to the Philadelphia 76ers' recent woes with a 137-106 victory on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
After getting blown out 113-86 in the first game of the season between these two teams on Nov. 23, the Heat responded with three straight victories over Philadelphia. The Sixers have now lost three straight on their current four-game road trip and have fallen to No. 6 in the Eastern Conference standings.
What started as a close game turned into a blowout thanks to Miami's 41-point third quarter. The Heat turned their 56-52 halftime lead into a 20-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Jimmy Butler had a huge game against his former team. The five-time All-Star set a new season high with 38 points. Bam Adebayo contributed 18 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists in the win.
Philadelphia's offense was unable to keep pace in the second half. Joel Embiid put up a valiant effort with 29 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
Notable Game Stats
- Jimmy Butler (MIA): 38 points (14-of-20), 7 rebounds, 2 assists
- Bam Adebayo (MIA): 18 points (8-of-15), 8 rebounds, 11 assists
- Goran Dragic (MIA): 24 points (7-of-12), 6 assists
- Joel Embiid (PHI): 29 points (9-of-14), 12 rebounds
- Ben Simmons (PHI): 16 points (4-of-7), 8 rebounds, 7 assists
- Mike Scott (PHI): 17 points (5-of-7), 3 rebounds
Jimmy Butler Shines in Heat's Dominant Win
Earlier this season, Butler responded to a reporter's question about the Heat being a "one-star team" by calling Bam Adebayo their star.
Perhaps Butler was attempting to pump up Adebayo, who has been one of the NBA's breakout stars this season. He was also underselling his value to Miami, which was on full display against his former team.
Butler hadn't scored at least 30 points in a game since Jan. 10, but he broke that total midway through the third quarter.
As good as Butler was in this game, the rest of his teammates found ways to get involved in the action. For example, Derrick Jones Jr.'s fight for an offensive rebound in the third quarter helped set up one of Butler's three-pointers.
Adebayo's 11 assists marked the second time in the past four games he's reached double-digits in that category dimes. Goran Dragic aggressively attacked the basket, allowing him to attempt seven free throws in 26 minutes off the bench.
If there was one negative to take away from the game, Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard both left with injuries. Leonard suffered a sprained right ankle, and Herro was diagnosed with soreness in his right foot.
Still, the Heat are fortunate to have a deep roster that allows them to handle injuries better than most teams.
It's yet to be determined how much time Leonard and Herro might miss. But if either is out for an extended period, that makes Butler's dominant performance more crucial.
The Heat signed the swingman during the offseason to be their go-to player. He stepped up in the spotlight Monday against the Sixers to help his team send a message to the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Sixers Continue to Struggle on Both Ends
Scoring has been the Achilles' heel for the Sixers all season. It was a problem yet again in Monday's loss to the Heat.
Philadelphia entered this game ranked 20th in offensive rating (108.9) and 23rd in points per game (108.4), per Basketball Reference. The Orlando Magic (103.2) are the only team currently in playoff position that averages fewer points per game.
The 76ers shot just 34.2 from three-point range (13-of-38) and were often careless with the ball. They committed 14 turnovers for the second straight game, with half of that total coming from Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Stephen A Smith @stephenasmith
The way the @sixers are looking right now, they won’t get out of the first round. I believe in @JoelEmbiid and @BenSimmons25, but damn, somethings got to give. @Sixers just ain’t good enough right now. They ain’t going any damn place unless they make a deal.....or a change!
Stephen A Smith @stephenasmith
What in the HELL is this? I’m watching the @sixers...trailing the @MiamiHEAT by 35 Damn points. What they hell did they do....party with the @Chiefs after the damn Super Bowl? Brett Brown running this @spurs system. Tim Duncan & Tony Parker ain’t walking thru that door? Damn!
Tobias Harris had another quiet night coming off a 10-point showing against the Boston Celtics. He scored just six points and went 0-of-6 from three-point range.
Having offensive struggles isn't a new issue for the Sixers, which makes the recent defensive woes stand out even more. They have allowed an average of 126.7 points during this three-game losing streak.
Miami's 137-point output is the most allowed by the 76ers this season. It's also the first time an opponent has dropped at least 130 points against their defense.
Unless head coach Brett Brown can find a quick fix for his team, the Sixers could be looking at an extended period of losing leading up to the All-Star break. Things don't get easier for them with three of their next four games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers.
The 76ers still possess a high ceiling because of what Embiid, Simmons, Harris and Al Horford are capable of at their best. They are still trying to figure out their identity at this point in this season, making it difficult to compete for a top spot in the Eastern Conference with five good teams currently ahead of them.
The 76ers will wrap up their four-game road trip when they visit Fiserv Forum for a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. The Heat will kick off a five-game Western Conference road trip at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.