The last time the Miami Heat played, the praise was about the business-like approach in a victory over an Oklahoma City Thunder team with nothing to play for and almost no one available to play.
Monday night at Wells Fargo Center, the Heat seemingly were gifted a similar opportunity, with the Philadelphia 76ers holding out Joel Embiid and James Harden.
This time, they didn’t take care of business, falling 113-106, essentially playing down to — and then below — the level of the competition.
“It was not our best version,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The 76ers closed at 50 percent from the field, shooting 70 percent in the fourth quarter.
“I’m going to chalk this up as an anomaly,” Spoelstra said. “But hopefully it caught our attention, as well.”
The 76ers got 28 points from Tyrese Maxey and a season-high 20 points from Shake Milton, managing to play competitively with a center rotation of 37-year-old Paul Millsap and 33-year-old DeAndre Jordan.
“Regardless of who it was and what the circumstance was, we were struggling to stay in front of guys,” Spoelstra said.
Back from a sprained right ankle, Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 27 points, supported by 22 from Bam Adebayo and 20 from Kyle Lowry.
“It happens,” Lowry said of the unexpected loss. “You still just got to stay even keel. It is what it is.”
Particularly missing was the bench spark from Tyler Herro, who closed with 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting and continually was victimized defensively at the finish. Nonetheless, Herro’s ninth point moved him past Dwyane Wade’s Heat single-season record for bench points, of 1,028 in 2018-19.
“I just feel,” Adebayo said, “like we didn’t bring the intensity that we usually have throughout these games. I feel like we came out lackadaisical.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Monday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat led 32-26 after the first quarter, but then trailed 57-56 at halftime and 80-78 after three periods, with neither team leading by more than six to that stage.
A 3-pointer by Caleb Martin with 7:06 left put the Heat up 93-92, with the 76ers regaining the lead 103-99 with 3:30 left on a Furkan Korkmaz 3-pointer and a Tobias Harris driving pull-up.
Later, a 3-point play by Maxey moved the 76ers to a 106-101 advantage with 2:18 left, with a Maxey 3-pointer with 1:34 to go making it 109-101 and effectively ending it.
“They sealed it at the end,” Spoelstra said. “Maxey just banged home some big shots.”
The Heat allowed 14-of-20 shooting the by 76ers in the fourth quarter, with Maxey 5 for 5.
“They got to their spots,” Lowry said, ” and Tyrese really took over that fourth quarter.”
2. Butler back: Idle the previous five days after spraining his right ankle in the first half of last Tuesday’s home victory over the Detroit Pistons, Butler had 10 points in the first quarter and 15 by halftime.
The approach upon his return was both passive and aggressive. He was 0 for 2 on 3-point attempts over the first two periods, but also converted all three free-throws when fouled on a first-quarter 3-point attempt.
He closed 11 of 11 from the line.
Butler walked with a limp into his postgame media session.
“I’m OK,” he said. “A little bit more rest and recovery coming. But I feel as good as I’m going to feel out there.”
3. Range found: After shooting 4 of 7 on 3-pointers in the Heat’s previous game, Friday night’s victory over the Thunder, Lowry again stepped up from the 3-point line, closing 6 of 11 from beyond the arc.
Before these past two games, Lowry had converted four 3-pointers total in his previous five games.
Even with the loss, the aggression of Lowry has been a positive development as the playoffs approach.
“For me and us to be successful,” Lowry said, “I understand that it starts at the point of attack. For me, personally, it’s just about getting into a rhythm.”
4. Downsizing: With Embiid out for the 76ers, the Heat again went small with their first substitution at center, with Markieff Morris entering in the middle for Adebayo.
Spoelstra downplayed the notion of Morris as center as some type of late-season revelation.
“Markieff is just a good, winning, veteran player,” he said. “So he does a lot of things that fit with what we do.”
Spoelstra said such moments should not be overstated, as Dewayne Dedmon again was held out.
“I just want to be open to all the possibilities, whatever makes the most sense,” Spoelstra said. “Once you get in the playoffs, a lot of it does become matchup based.”
With Adebayo the Heat’s only rim deterrence, the 76ers continually attacked the rim once he left in favor of Morris, with Philadelphia scoring 50 points in the paint.
5. Still waiting: The first time the Heat face the 76ers’ Embiid-Harden pairing could come in the playoffs.
Although both were given Monday off ostensibly for rest on the back end of the 76ers’ back-to-back set that opened with Sunday night’s home loss to the Raptors, Embiid and Harden very much have the attention of Spoelstra.
“It’s a great fit,” Spoelstra said of the duo’s pairing with the 76ers. “And their games complement each other. Either guy can make plays. Either guy can be the recipient from the other guys. And you’re just talking about two MVP-caliber talents. It has a way of making itself work out.”
Source: Berkshire mont