MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers handles the ball against the Miami Heat on February 27, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

In the Bonus | 02.27.18 vs Heat

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

The following notes and nuggets were taken from the 76ers’ February 27th 102-101 loss to the Miami Heat.

Click here for a complete recap of the game, and be sure to check out our post-game pod below:

Bonus Points:

• Due to Tuesday’s loss in Miami, the Sixers were denied - for now - a win in their season series versus the Heat. Why would a victory in the four-game set matter? Well, with the Sixers and Miami divided by just a game in the Eastern Conference standings, there’s always the chance that about six weeks from now, when the regular season ends, the two clubs might need a tiebreaker to determine where they stand in respect to playoff seeding. Head-to-head would be the first separator, followed by conference record. So far, the home squad has held serve in each meeting this year (Sixers 2/2 103-97 W, Sixers 2/14 104-102 W, Miami 2/27 102-101 W).

• As the number of games on the schedule begin to dwindle (there’s 23 left), and the Sixers’ playoff bid builds, Brett Brown has talked more and more about the importance of getting ready for the types of late-game scenarios that assume substantial weight in the post-season. Tuesday’s down-to-the wire, hotly-contested clash with Miami provided the Sixers with an introduction of sorts to what some of these situations might be like. Here are a couple of quick takeaways:

1). Not surprisingly, Brown stuck with his top group - Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid - with Tuesday’s game on the line, as the combo was on the court for the final four minutes, 57 seconds. Brown has understandable confidence in his starting contingent. No five-man unit in the NBA with at least 400 minutes played together has been more efficient, with the quintet manufacturing a league-leading 17.4 net rating.

2). It certainly appeared as if Dwyane Wade’s foul on Ben Simmons with 23.8 seconds to go was deliberate. With the score knotted at 100-100, the rookie toed the line, missing his front-end attempt, before sinking his second shot. On Miami’s ensuing possession, of course, Wade drilled the eventual game-winner. Down the stretch of the season, it’ll be worth noting whether other teams adopt a similar approach to the one the Heat used Tuesday. As Simmons has said in the past, as recently as last Thursday, in fact, when he converted the winning foul shots in a one-point triumph at Chicago, making free throws under pressure is a matter of mindset. Stinging as as Tuesday’s loss to Miami was, we’d be willing to bet the determined, focused Simmons ultimately grows from the experience.

3). We’re going to stick with the subject of Ben Simmons for one more item here, and this time turn our attention to the defensive end of the floor. The assignment the 21-year old drew in crunch time was hard to miss, as he was called upon to match up with a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer. While the Sixers certainly did a lot of switching in the waning minutes of Tuesday’s fourth quarter, it was Simmons who emerged as Dwyane Wade’s primary man. Simmons has shown plenty of on-ball defensive prowess this season, and the Sixers decided he was up for the challenge of guarding one of the greats. While Wade delivered Tuesday’s game-winner, Simmons sounded afterwards like he was ok with his efforts on the decisive contested play, crediting Wade for making a big shot.

4). As far as the substitution patterns in Tuesday’s final frame, Brett Brown rolled out seven different personnel combinations. T.J. McConnell and Marco Belinelli formed the Sixers’ backcourt for the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter. From there, Ben Simmons took over at the point, while Belinelli stayed on the floor for another three-plus minutes. In the frontcourt, Brown paired Joel Embiid with Richaun Holmes to being the period, but within 71 seconds, the All-Star was whistled for his fifth personal foul. Veteran Amir Johnson subsequently assumed Embiid’s spot at center for less than a minute, before Brown brought Dario Saric in. Holmes became the Sixers’ five man, and remained in that role until the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Johnson then returned, and was later replaced by Embiid with five minutes, 41 seconds to go. The starting five finished things out.

• A key sequence that further fueled Miami’s successful comeback push Tuesday was Dwyane Wade’s up-fake in the corner with 27.0 seconds left. The play resulted in a foul call, and Wade punched in all three ensuing free throws to tie the tilt at 100. Staying “ground-bound” on defense is a concept that Brett Brown has preached to the Sixers throughout the season, and it was a thought at the forefront of his mind following Tuesday’s defeat. 

“I think the learning we have to go through of not getting lifted on ball fakes, and [opponents] hurling their body into an air-born defender, referees are going to call that every time,” Brown said.

Bill Spooner, one Tuesday’s officials, did just that.

Said Brown, “That’s just something we have to get better at.”

• What Dwyane Wade was for the Miami Heat in Tuesday’s fourth quarter was kind of what Dario Saric was for the Sixers throughout the entire second half. The Croatian cranked out 17 of his 21 points after intermission, a period during which he went 5 for 6 from the field, 3 for 4 from 3-point territory, and 4 for 4 from the foul line, all while snatching 5 rebounds. Through Tuesday’s first two quarters, Saric had managed 4 points, hitting only 2 of 8 shots, and missing all three of his perimeter attempts.

• Dario Saric had a particularly dramatic impact on Tuesday’s game at the outset of the third quarter. With the score tied at 56, the versatile forward canned a tie-breaking three, and went on to tally the next nine points himself. He then dimed out Ben Simmons for an emphatic jam to have a say in every point the Sixers scored during a momentum-changing 11-0 spurt.

• Marco Belinelli was featured prominently during a flurry that began Tuesday’s fourth quarter. First came his nifty feed to T.J. McConnell that produced an energizing, insurance 3-pointer.

Moments later, the recently acquired Italian sharpshooter canned a pair of his own triples in the span 30 seconds. His contributions were part of a blitz that nudged the Sixers’ margin to 10 points, 86-76, two and a half minutes into the final period of play.

• Signed February 13th off the free agent buyout market, Marco Belinelli has reached double-figures in three consecutive games, and four of five overall since joining the Sixers. He notched 13 points on 4 for 8 shooting (2-4 3fg) versus Miami.

• The Sixers’ special teams offense, from out-of-bounds plays to after-timeout plays to end-of-quarter plays, have been a dependable part of the team’s arsenal this season. In Tuesday’s first half, the Sixers capped both quarters with well-executed calls.

First, there was this high-flying flush that T.J. McConnell served up to Robert Covington…

...McConnell was in the mix again in the closing seconds of the second period, when he set this all-out hustle sequence in motion.