The Philadelphia 76ers will look to sweep consecutive home games against the Miami Heat when they meet again on Thursday.
The Sixers came away with a wild 137-134 overtime win over the Heat on Tuesday in which both teams’ rosters were depleted due to health and safety protocols.
But the Sixers had Joel Embiid, who proved to be the difference. Embiid was utterly dominant with 35 of his 45 points coming in the second half and overtime. He added 16 rebounds, five steals and four assists to become the first player since 1983-84 to post those0 lofty numbers.
Embiid also became the first player this season to accumulate at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in a game.
“It all started in the first half,” Embiid said. “It just felt like I was going through the motions. I wasn’t getting the ball as much. I was just trying to run the offense and in that third quarter being up by one point, that’s when I felt like I needed to take matters into my own hands. I just decided to be aggressive.”
Like Tuesday, the Sixers are expected to be without key contributors once again such as Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, Shake Milton and Matisse Thybulle.
Ben Simmons had an off night as he had six points, six rebounds, 12 assists and six turnovers before fouling out. Embiid stepped up and made 16 of 23 shots, including 13 of 13 from the free throw line.
“There was no chance we were going down,” Embiid said. “Whatever I had to do and whatever my teammates had to do, we did it.”
The Heat will attempt to win on the second leg of this matchup after putting in a valiant effort with a short-handed roster. Tyler Herro led the way with 34 points while Duncan Robinson added 26 and Gabe Vincent had a career-high 24.
The Heat will likely again be without the likes of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn, among others.
“It’s a shame because our guys did more than enough to put ourselves in position to win,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They could have kept on going another two overtimes. It wasn’t a matter of lack of want or lack of effort. Our guys emptied it all out there. It’s just a matter of getting over this hurdle of really finishing plays.”
Miami also received a strong performance from Precious Achiuwa, who had 17 points and 13 rebounds and nearly willed the team to a win in regulation before Embiid sent it to overtime.
“We’re not just trying to develop guys for the future,” Spoelstra said. “We’re trying to develop guys to learn how to win at the highest level, this year. Right now.”
Despite the loss, the Heat had to be encouraged also by the play of Vincent, whose previous career-best was nine points. Vincent scored 12 points alone in the second quarter and finished 9 of 20 overall, 4 of 12 from beyond the arc.
“Not happy about the circumstances,” Vincent said. “But I just tried to take advantage of it.”
The Heat had only eight players available on Tuesday and all eight had entered the game by the time the first quarter was completed. Meyers Leonard (shoulder), however, may be available for Thursday’s game.