3 observations after Sixers' season ends with ugly Game 6 loss to Heat


The Sixers certainly did not earn a fourth chance to win in South Beach.

The team’s season ended in dreadful fashion Thursday night with a 99-90 Game 6 loss at Wells Fargo Center to the Heat.

Jimmy Butler concluded a tremendous individual series by scoring 32 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Joel Embiid had 20 points and 12 boards for the Sixers, who were down by as many as 20.

James Harden, the Sixers’ prized trade deadline acquisition in February, posted 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting, nine assists and four turnovers.

The Sixers have not advanced beyond Round 2 of the playoffs since 2001.

Here are three observations on the team's Game 6 loss to Miami:

Sixers take a major hit with Green knee injury

The night started similarly to Game 5 for the Sixers, who sunk into a 7-0 hole. Butler, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent knocked down jumpers. Tobias Harris caught an Embiid skip pass while standing out of bounds.

The team turned things around quickly, though. Danny Green broke the ice with a corner three and Harris knotted the game at 7-all off of a full-court feed from Harden.

With 8:54 left in the first, all the noise and chaos abruptly died down. Embiid fell to the floor after a driving layup and crashed into Green’s left leg. It was immediately apparent that Green sustained a significant injury on the play.

The 34-year-old eventually rose and was helped to the locker room. The Sixers officially ruled Green out for the remainder of the game with a left knee injury late in the opening quarter. Just rotten luck for Green, who suffered a right calf strain during the Sixers’ second-round series loss to the Hawks last year and dealt with minor injuries throughout this season. The Sixers value his wisdom from the sidelines, but he’s remained valuable on the court.

Matisse Thybulle replaced Green and broke up a lob intended for Bam Adebayo on his first defensive possession, creating a Tyrese Maxey fast-break dunk. Thybulle had another bright sequence soon after when he threw down an and-one dunk off of a baseline out-of-bounds play, then blocked Butler on the next Miami possession.

However, the Sixers’ wings behind Green have weaknesses that any opponent can spot. After two Thybulle fouls (and two missed three-pointers), Furkan Korkmaz checked in to begin the second quarter. In the middle of the period, Korkmaz air balled a runner and was beaten backdoor by Tyler Herro about a dozen seconds later.

Georges Niang played alongside the Sixers’ four usual starters besides Green late in the first half. His lack of foot speed — an issue exacerbated by a bothersome left knee — was evident on several plays, including a drive by Strus (20 points) on which the Miami wing left Niang in the dust and coasted in for a layup that brought the Heat to within 48-47. Miami took a one-point lead into intermission and Thybulle began the second half.

That didn’t go as Sixers head coach Doc Rivers would have hoped. Thybulle missed a layup, Butler put the Heat up 58-50 on an easy hoop, and the Sixers heard some boos when Rivers called timeout. Shake Milton subbed in.

Sour finish for masked Embiid

Embiid continued to play through serious injuries (right orbital fracture, torn ligament in his right thumb) and show frequent signs that they were troubling him.

He toppled to the ground following a fight for an offensive rebound with 6:39 left in the second quarter and grabbed his face in obvious pain as he walked to the bench. Late in the third, Embiid tumbled to the hardwood chasing after a loose ball and stayed down for a few moments.

Embiid made two first half-threes, but his mid-range shooting was far worse than his unmasked norm. He dropped to 6 for 19 from the floor when Adebayo swatted his shot in the third quarter. The MVP runner-up preferred not to discuss the specific impacts of his injuries after Game 5, but it’s understandable that he’s seen himself as being in a “lose-lose situation.” Yet again, his physical capacity has been limited and almost entirely outside of his control.

With Embiid now 28 years old and in his prime years, it’s difficult to shake the impression that he’s somewhat snakebitten. His three-point try to end the third quarter was on line but rattled around the hoop and out. Embiid air balled a corner three attempt early in the fourth.

Ugly way for Sixers to go out

Harden flashed big-time shotmaking skill in the second quarter, drilling two three-pointers within a minute.

His third period couldn’t have started any worse, though. On the Sixers’ first play of the second half, he dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds. On the Heat’s first play, Butler hit an and-one jumper over Harden.

The night began to turn truly ugly for the Sixers as the third period wore on. Butler got Embiid to bite on a pump fake and made an off-balance, and-one jumper to stretch the Heat’s advantage to 13 points.

The next couple of minutes included a Harden turnover looking for Niang on a pick-and-pop, which led to an uncontested Adebayo dunk, and a P.J. Tucker tip-in when the veteran forward won rebounding position over Harden without much apparent issue.

At his introductory press conference, Harden said he plans to exercise his player option of approximately $47.4 million for the 2022-23 season. His future will be among the primary topics that the Sixers wish weren't in the spotlight this soon.

Milton injected a little life with a seven-point flurry in the third quarter and the Sixers trailed by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter.

They needed to be nearly perfect to win from there and did not come close. Miami opened the fourth on a 6-0 run with Embiid on the bench.

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