3 observations after Sixers' blowout Game 5 loss to Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
MIAMI — If the Sixers force a Game 7 in their second-round series against the Heat, they'll revisit an arena where they just got crushed.
Miami blew the Sixers out to grab a 3-2 series lead Tuesday night, taking a 120-85 game at FTX Arena.
Jimmy Butler followed up a 40-point Game 4 performance with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Joel Embiid scored a team-high 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting.
Kyle Lowry missed Game 5 with the left hamstring strain that sidelined him for the series’ first two contests.
Game 6 will be Thursday night in Philadelphia. Here are observations on a brutal Game 5 for the Sixers:
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Butler seizes control at the start
Butler was borderline magnetic in the first quarter. Wherever he wanted to be on the floor, he was bound to get there.
The 32-year-old reached nine points with an uncontested fast-break dunk following a James Harden turnover to put Miami up 15-10. Back-to-back Max Strus three-pointers then extended the Heat’s lead to double figures. Strus nailed another triple late in the first and matched Butler with 11 points in the period.
The Sixers were fine with Butler taking threes, and he made one of two early attempts. That’s very low on the list of his top skills, though. In big games where basic entry passes and offensive structure can be tough to consistently manage, Butler’s physicality tends to stand out. Once he’s got the ball, he’s going to shield off his man and take whatever time’s necessary to play his preferred game. It’s also been especially noticeable in this series that he’s a low-turnover, high-usage star. Miami scored the game’s first 10 points off turnovers.
It was undeniably ominous that the Sixers trailed after the first despite Embiid playing the entire quarter.
A couple of new wrinkles
Head head coach Erik Spoelstra gave Duncan Robinson his first non-rotation minutes of the series. The 28-year-old checked in with five seconds late in the opening period.
A starter for the Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals, Robinson got six minutes and was scoreless before garbage time. Miami didn’t need anything special from him. His first points of the series were a fourth-quarter three that extended the Heat’s lead to 31 points in the fourth.
The Sixers also tried something outside of their usual pattern, although it didn’t last long. Paul Reed played well early in the second quarter, producing six points directly from offensive rebounds through an and-one, put-back layup and a kick-out pass to Shake Milton for a three. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers kept him in as a power forward when Embiid re-entered.
Spoelstra called timeout and almost everything immediately after play resumed went in Miami’s favor. Victor Oladipo scored three of his 11 second-quarter points, Milton missed two shots in the paint, and Reed couldn’t catch an interior pass from Reed. The Embiid-Reed frontcourt played 63 seconds together.
Depth has mattered in this series, but Oladipo having a nice quarter and Spoelstra having some good second-unit options isn’t why the Sixers were down 20 points late in the third.
Scary sight, miserable night for Embiid
With 6:11 to go in the second, Embiid lay on the ground holding his face, protective mask to the side. Sixers medical staffers hurried over to the 7-footer.
Replays on the TNT broadcast showed that Dewayne Dedmon swatted the ball into Embiid’s face from close range, which was a concerning sight for a player who suffered a right orbital fracture last Thursday.
Rivers got a technical foul protesting the no-call, and Embiid also expressed his displeasure to the officials once he rose to his feet. The five-time All-Star eventually headed to the bench, where it appeared he received a brief visual exam and was given the all-clear to remain in the game.
Needless to say, it was excellent that Embiid apparently didn’t sustain any sort of serious re-injury. But, unlike in Games 3 and 4, his presence was not all-powerful.
The Sixers cut the Heat’s lead to 10 points when Embiid made a pull-up jumper on the first possession of the third quarter. However, game-saving heroics are less likely for a player dealing with multiple significant injuries — including a torn ligament in his right thumb — and not getting great performances from anyone around him. Tyrese Maxey fell to 1 for 8 from the floor on a third-period floater try that went in and out. Georges Niang was 0 for 6 from three-point range. Tobias Harris shot 5 for 14 and drew no free throws.
With Sixers down 18 in the third, Harden had two giveaways and came up empty on a three. Down 20, he couldn’t convert a technical free throw after a Miami three-second violation.
The Sixers subbed Embiid out early in the fourth. He took a dejected seat on the bench and watched an extended meaningless stretch knowing the Sixers require a two-game winning streak (and a much better road performance if they reach a Game 7) to keep their season going.