By Connor Thomas
Joel Embiid said postgame that he decided in the 3rd quarter to take matters into his own hands. That is exactly what Philadelphia’s big man did down the stretch last night, exerting a herculean effort to propel the ragtag Sixers to their 8th win of the season. The Sixers started slow, scoring only 55 points in the first half and heading into halftime at an 8 point deficit. The Heat were missing multiple starters, but sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, who had already poured in 24 points by the end of the 3rd quarter, helping carry the Heat, who were also missing numerous starters. The issue for Miami, however, was that Embiid was processing on all cylinders in the 2nd half. He only had 10 points at the break, but the MVP candidate put up 20 points in the 3rd to will the Sixers to a 1 point lead heading into the 4th quarter.
The supposed final frame was a wild 12 minutes, with Embiid and the rest of the Sixers playing masterful defense, and the Heat clawing and scratching to stay in the game. In the closing seconds, it seemed that Miami’s young star Tyler Herro had put the Heat above for good, drawing a foul with 32 seconds left and hitting 1 of 2 at the line to put Miami up 5. The backups turned starters for Philadelphia had other plans. Mike Scott found an open Isaiah Joe in the corner to knock down a huge 3 pointer to draw the Sixers within 2, and then the following possession, the usual suspects took over for Philly as Danny Green stole a pass from Tyler Herro and Joel Embiid was able to draw a foul on the other end of the floor. That foul led to a drawn up play for Embiid, who knocked in a step back 20 footer to tie the game at 120, and force overtime in a game that only half a minute ago seemed over. The fight was far from over, not just because of the resilient Heat, but because the Sixers had lost both starting PG Ben Simmons and backup PG Tyrese Maxey to foul outs in the 4th quarter. But it was all Embiid in OT, as the 7’ tall superstar ran the point and contributed 11 of the Sixers’ 17 extra time points. All of the big man’s 45 points would’ve been for naught, however, if it weren’t for an extremely clutch 3 pointer from rookie Dakota Mathias to put the team up for good.
While Joel Embiid’s MVP performance overshadowed pretty much everything else that happened on the night, Danny Green also had a banner performance on the night, following up his awful shooting performance against Atlanta with a 29 point performance that featured 9 3 pointers made. It is near unbelievable that a player fell one 3 pointer short of the Sixers single game record, and barely gets mention in a recap, but that is how unstoppable Embiid was last night. His 45-16-4 game also included 5 steals, and cemented him as a clear contender for this years’ MVP award. The Sixers returned to the win column for the first time in 4 contests, moving to 8-4 on the year. The Heat fell below .500 to 4-5 on the young season. The two teams will face off again Thursday night in the 2nd game of another installment of the NBA’s new home and home series.