Just when you thought the Sixers' nightmare road trip couldn't get much worse, they were haunted by an old friend.
Jimmy Butler went off, going for 38 points as the Heat downed the Sixers, 137-106, at AmericanAirlines Arena Monday. Miami took the season series, 3-1.
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With three straight losses to start this difficult road slate, the Sixers are now a putrid 9-18 on the road and 31-20 overall. Their next game? A date with the best team in the NBA in Milwaukee Thursday (8 p.m./TNT).
Here are observations from the loss:
Haunted by Jimmy
We had yet to see Butler truly go off against his former team this season, but he more than made up for it Monday. Butler just did all the things we saw him do as a Sixer. He ran the Heat's offense, got to the foul lane and was deadly in the midrange. He got his season-high 38 points in just 29 minutes.
Ben Simmons had done an excellent job against Butler in the previous matchups. Head coach Erik Spoelstra was looking to get his All-Star off Simmons, setting several screens and forcing the Sixers into unfavorable matchups.
The overall defensive effort wasn't good, especially during the Heat's 41-point third quarter. As a team, Miami committed just three turnovers, with the second one coming with under four minutes to go in the game. That can't happen.
Embiid and Simmons playing together
There's been a lot of talk about the offensive fit of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. You wouldn't have known it from watching the beginning of this game.
One interesting wrinkle Brett Brown threw out was having Simmons and Embiid on the blocks and then having them screen for each other. It's kind of an old-school tactic, but with the way this team is built, it could be effective.
After having one of his worst performances of the season in Boston Saturday, Embiid seemed engaged from the jump. The Heat had difficulty containing the All-Star center as he went for 14 points and nine rebounds in the first half. He finished with 29 points.
That didn't stop Simmons from pushing the pace and continuing his aggressive ways. His free throw shooting - in both quality and quantity - continues to be a huge positive. He was 8 of 9 from the line. He had 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
How these players play together has been a hot topic, but they were far from the problem Monday.
Need more from the supporting cast
Tobias Harris struggled in his previous two games, going 10 of 27 (1 of 6 from three) combined in losing efforts. He was 3 of 12 Monday. The Sixers need Harris to be the third piece next to Embiid and Simmons that they traded for last season and signed to a near-max deal this summer.
Al Horford played just 11 minutes in the first half and if you blinked, you might've missed him. Miami has been a tough matchup for Horford this season outside of the starting frontcourt of Bam Adebayo and Meyers Leonard. He was just 2 of 5 for six points.
Outside of Mike Scott's 17 points off the bench, Embiid and Simmons didn't get much help.
Milton earning his keep
Brown has started second-year guard Shake Milton in place of Josh Richardson - and he's rewarded his coach's faith. The big word everyone uses with Milton is poise. The 23-year-old has looked like he belongs. One of the more impressive things we've is his ability to finish at the rim. He was 5 of 11 for 11 points and had four assists.
With the struggles defensively of Raul Neto and Trey Burke because of their size, it would make sense to give the 6-foot-5 Milton the backup point guard duties when Richardson returns. Milton has earned a role and that's the one that makes the most sense.
Changes have to be coming … right?
With each passing game, the need for more shooting and shot creation is blatantly obvious. The Sixers were 13 of 38 from three-point range Monday and a lot of that damage was done when the game was out of hand.
With the trade deadline coming Thursday at 3 p.m., GM Elton Brand should be a busy man. The Sixers are underperforming and sit in the sixth spot in the East. With all the talk of championship aspirations this offseason, this doesn't seem like a team that can afford to stand pat.
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