Miami Heat vs. 76ers: Miami overpowers Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia in Game 1

Miami Heat – FTX Arena Empty After Game — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Tiago Pestana

MIAMI, Fl. – The Miami Heat may have not given their best performance in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday evening, but it was good enough.

Despite playing the game without starting point guard Kyle Lowry and shooting 9-for-36 from a 3-point range, the Heat was able to topple the Joel Embiid-less 76ers, beating them 106-92 in front of a massive crowd of 19,620 at the FTX Arena in Miami. 

“You don’t want to add more context to anything,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said when asked if there was more pressure to take advantage of the Sixers without Embiid. “You want to stay in the present moment. It’s really just trying to do whatever you have to do to get to the next game, or the game at hand. And that’s all we’re going to focus on. We haven’t had any discussions about, ‘Hey, we have to win tonight.’ I think that adds a different kind of context and pressure.”

“It’s just about trying to go out and putting together your best game plan to win that game. And that’s what we’ll focus on the next 48 hours–is just on Game 2.”

Miami’s performance in Game 1 was one that is easy to forget. It received a pedestrian performance from star forward Jimmy Butler and shot only 43 percent from the field.

However, the 76ers were far worse. They shot 6-for-34 from a 3-point range, committed 15 turnovers that turned into 22 points for Miami and were outrebounded 47-37, including 15-9 to the offensive glass, helping the Heat get 13 more shots.

“Very similar to the [first round against] Toronto, in that we told our guys they can’t have more rebounds than us, they can’t force turnovers because they can’t have more shots than us,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said.

“We’re working with a small margin for error, so we can’t give a team 13 extra shots on the road without Joel and think we’re going to win a game.”

Philadelphia will play at least one more game without Embiid, who is out with a concussion and orbital fracture he suffered in Game 6 against Toronto. But the 76ers admitted they let an easy game slip right through their fingers, particularly with Lowry out once again with an injured hamstring and them holding the Heat down offensively.

“Obviously we’re not trying to miss shots, but things we can control are rebounding the basketball and not turning the basketball over,” said James Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting, took only four free throws and had five assists and five turnovers. “That’s things we can control, and once we do that next game we’ll have a better chance of winning.”

There was also a general dissatisfaction with Miami’s ability to control the game through its physicality. In Embiid’s absence, Miami All-Star center Bam Adebayo dominated, scoring 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting, 12 rebounds, and four assists in 33 minutes.

In the third quarter, the 76ers were particularly unhappy with their performance. After trailing by one at halftime, the Heat regained control of the glass and stormed back into the lead, thanks in part to Philly’s inability to shake off some misses.

“I definitely thought we got the looks we wanted,” said Tobias Harris, who continued to impress with 27 points on 11-for-18 shooting in 36 minutes. “Sometimes, it happens. It’s a make-or-miss league.

“We’d take those same looks the next game as well. We just have to be prepared and put up the same type of looks that we may be able to get. We just have to make them.

“Tonight, they didn’t fall for us, and I think that dropped our energy on the defensive end a little bit. Hopefully, those shots are there next game, and we capitalize.”

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