Heat, 76ers meet in battle of shorthanded rosters

NBA Basketball

The shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers will look to avoid a fourth consecutive loss when they host the depleted Miami Heat on Tuesday.

The Sixers’ most recent loss came Monday, a 112-94 road setback against the Atlanta Hawks, despite 24 points and 11 rebounds from Joel Embiid in 23 minutes.

Philadelphia was without Ben Simmons for the second straight game due to a sore left knee. Also out for health and safety protocols were Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirier.

Simmons did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Monday.

“We thought it may one game and it’s already been two,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said of Simmons. “We’re hoping he’ll play (Tuesday) night, but I can’t guarantee any of that.”

The Sixers have really missed Curry, who is shooting 59.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

“He’s doing great,” Rivers said. “I talked to him (Sunday) and he says, ‘Coach, I feel great.'”

After earning seven wins in their first eight games, the Sixers have lost three in a row amid COVID-19-related absences.

Following the Miami game on Tuesday, Philadelphia will play again on Thursday, still attempting to regain the chemistry of the first eight games.

One player who is taking advantage of extra playing time amid the absences is rookie Tyrese Maxey. He scored a season-high 39 points against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday and added 15 against the Hawks.

“I’m telling you, he’s going to be a terrific player,” Rivers said.

The Heat are in the midst of their own health-related issues.

Roster losses left Miami below the minimum of eight players available needed to face the Boston Celtics on Sunday, leading to a postponement. As a result, a number of players remained in quarantine for an extra day in Boston.

As of Noon EST on Tuesday, the Heat announced “we have enough.” The common refrain of coach Eric Spoelstra is a reference this time to the number of players available for the game.

Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Moe Harkless, Avery Bradley, Kendrick Nunn, Udonis Haslem and KZ Okpala are all expected to be out against the Sixers. Dragic (knee) and Meyers Leonard (shoulder) are sidelined for non-COVID reasons.

The numbers put more of the scoring load on second-year guard Tyler Herro. He had a career-best 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting to go along with nine rebounds Saturday in the Heat’s 128-124 road victory over the Washington Wizards.

“He’s more than just strictly a catch-and-shoot player,” Spoelstra said. “He’s very good off the dribble. This is something that he diligently works on every day with his quarterback reads, and it’s not just finishing.

“It’s making the reads on what the scheme is and where the weakside is, and that’s on different coverages based on who you’re playing. I think he’s growing leaps and bounds with that.”

As cohesiveness is challenged by availability, the Heat have not resembled the team that advanced to the NBA Finals last season. Defensive breakdowns have occurred too often.

“I think we’re just playing dumb sometimes,” Butler said, “like we don’t know where we’re supposed to be, we don’t know what guys’ strengths are. Playing dumb, lazy, not paying attention. Whatever the case may be, we just got to be better.”

–Field Level Media

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