After a pair of huge wins at home, the Philadelphia 76ers fell flat on their heads in Game 5 against the Miami Heat, getting pummeled by a score of 120-85. The Sixers looked extremely flat all night long and failed to show the intensity they previously played with back in Philly.
Now, it’s win or go home for the Sixers. Here are 3 adjustments the squad must make to force a Game 7 back in South Beach.
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3 big things Sixers must do to force Game 7 vs. Heat
3. Joel Embiid must get going
Joel Embiid is battling several injuries right now. He reaggravated his eye injury as well on Tuesday night, but to be honest, this was an abysmal performance from the big man. Just a day after losing out on the MVP to Nikola Jokic, his teammates and most analysts believed the Sixers star would come out playing angry and dominate. But, it was the polar opposite.
Embiid posted 17 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes of action and went 7 for 12 from the field. Not bad efficiency by any means, but he lacked aggressiveness. This wasn’t the same Embiid who attacks the hoop and imposes his will on a consistent basis. To put his lack of involvement into perspective, Embiid also went to the line just three times.
When he plays with little energy, it immediately sets the tone for the rest of the Sixers rotation. Embiid is the leader of this team and they all fuel themselves off him. We saw it in Games 3 and 4 in Philly. Embiid didn’t play great, but the intensity was there and it completely changed the attitude of those around him.
There is no doubt Embiid must play better in Game 6 but even if he doesn’t drop 30 and grab 10 boards, the Cameroonian has to at least show that he wants it. He’s the one who gets the Sixers going.
2. Find their three-point shooting
Philadelphia shot the lights out of the gym at Wells Fargo in their two wins in the series, draining 48% of their triples. The likes of Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey got extremely hot and the ball movement was much improved, finding the shooters lots of clean looks from beyond the arc. However, on Tuesday, the Sixers struggled immensely in this category in Miami. They went 9 for 32 from long range and Georges Niang was 0 for 6.
The Heat definitely brought it more defensively in Game 5, but returning home, the Sixers must find their stroke again. With the Philly faithful behind them, this group looked like a much different team. Embiid is not in tip-top shape but Doc Rivers’ squad can help their own cause by getting hot from deep. After all, that’s been a huge part of their success all season long.
1. Get downhill
The Sixers got absolutely bodied inside, with the Heat outscoring them 56-36 in the paint and also outrebounding Philly by 10. This comes back to the lack of desire and aggression. Embiid isn’t the only one to blame here because after all, he is extremely beat up right now, also tweaking his back in Game 5.
The main two that have to be better here are James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. Harden turned back the clock in Game 5, going off for 32 points and showing glimpses of his former self. The Beard was getting downhill, drawing contact, and draining threes. Then on Tuesday, he failed to show up, collecting only 14 points in 37 minutes of action. With Embiid not at full strength, Harden must take the bull by the horns and take control.
As for Maxey, he’s been the Sixers’ most consistent player in these playoffs. His quickness off the dribble and ability to shoot it has proven to be a lethal weapon for Philly. Unfortunately, Maxey was also cold in Game 5, scoring just nine points on 2 for 10 shooting. He’s played extremely well in this series and should be fueled by the home crowd. If Maxey and Harden can show out and attack with intensity, Game 6 will be much more competitive for the Sixers.