Robert Covington was held without a field goal on ten attempts as the Philadelphia 76ers were defeated by the Miami Heat 108-99 from the American Airlines Arena Thursday night.
Two nights after Covington led the 76ers with 22 points in a 128-114 win over the Charlotte Hornets, the swing man was unable to find any consistency from the field. In nearly 30 minutes of action, Covington produced just three points on a trio of free throws.
The 76ers, as a team, didn’t fare much better than Covington from the field in this one, shooting 39.5 percent.
For the second consecutive outing, Joel Embiid appeared to be overmatched by his big man counterpart. Hassan Whiteside bodied Embiid all night, forcing him into foul trouble early in the second half. Whiteside dropped a game high 26 points on nine of 12 shooting. The game high marked the second consecutive night that a Joel Embiid battled foe notched the most points, as Charlotte’s Dwight Howard dropped 30 Tuesday night. Embiid was able to produce 17 points, but it wasn’t an efficient night for the big man, as it took him 18 attempts to find those numbers. Questions of Embiid’s fatigue level surfaced after the game and if he would require rest, and Head Coach Brett Brown said he’s constantly monitoring his center.
” We talk all the time about Joel. On a definitive plan, there is not one,” Brown said.
Dario Saric was perhaps the lone bright spot for the 76ers Tuesday night. Saric poured in a team high 20 points on an efficient night shooting. He connected on four of seven attempted threes, and was five for ten from the field. Saric’s four three pointers marked consecutive nights in which he accomplished that feat. He’s now building on a new double digit scoring streak after his previous snapped a week ago against the Hornets. He’s now produced 19 or better in three straight games. The 20 points paired with 10 rebounds gave Saric the only double double of the night. Saric’s lone downside Thursday night was his game high six turnovers, as it appeared he was trying to create plays with the absence of Robert Covington.
Philadelphia trailed by a single point after one quarter of play, 29-28, but struggled to find the bottom of the basket to begin the second quarter. The 76ers went nearly three full minutes without a point, as the Heat subsequently went on a 9-0 run to expand the Miami lead to ten points. The Heat continued to stretch their second half lead, as they scored 17 of 21 points sparked by that previous swing.
The 76ers would knock down four three-point attempts in just over two minutes of action to reduce the Heat lead to four points, 53-49. J.J. Redick hit three of those four attempts and finished the first half with 11 points. He would add one additional three in the second half and finish the night with 18 points. The fourth triple came off the hands of Marco Bellinelli, who would finish the night with 14 points off the bench. The 76ers shot exceptionally well from beyond the arc in the first half, knocking down six of ten attempts in the first 24 minutes.
Philadelphia would take a one point lead into the fourth quarter after the 76ers outscored the Heat 25-20 in the third quarter of play. T.J. McConnell scored four consecutive game points while guarded by Dwayne Wade midway through the third quarter, his only two made baskets of the night.
It wouldn’t take Miami long to regain the lead in the fourth quarter, as the Heat used a 15-3 run to open the final frame.
The 76ers weren’t done quite yet, as the team clawed it’s way back to a five point deficit with just under 90 seconds to play, down 101-96, after Marco Bellinelli nailed the final of his three made three pointers. Bellinelli’s downed three point attempt was not common place in the second half for the 76ers, as it was it the first half, as the team managed just nine made threes on 27 second half attempts. Bellinelli’s bucket would be the closest they would get, however, as the Heat would score seven of the game’s final ten points, capturing the nine point victory.
With the loss, the 76ers fall to 35-29 and are now a game and a half behind the Indiana Pacers for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The victory improves the Heat to 35-31. Miami is now just one game behind the 76ers, as they loom in the seventh seed. Perhaps more important than the slip in the standings is the failure of an end goal specific to the Miami Heat. The loss concludes a four game season series with the Heat, who drew even at two games with two wins over the 76ers in nine days. The 76ers lost the series edge, and will now have to rely on conference record if a playoff seeding tiebreaker were to occur.
The win for the Heat was their sixth victory in seven games.
The 76ers road swing continues, as they’ll travel to Brooklyn next to take on the Nets, who defeated the Charlotte Hornets by 14 Thursday night. That game will tip off at 7:30 Sunday night. You can hear all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic.
-By Tyler Zulli