Heat too hot for Sixers to handle

Butler pays tribute to team effort after Miami hand Philadelphia first home loss of season

Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo, with 23 points in the game, dunking over Philadelphia 76ers forward Joel Embiid on Wednesday. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo, with 23 points in the game, dunking over Philadelphia 76ers forward Joel Embiid on Wednesday. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHILADELPHIA • Perfect home record at stake, a game down to the wire, and the Philadelphia 76ers sure could have used Jimmy Butler in the clutch, just like he was for them so many times last National Basketball Association season.

The Miami Heat were glad to have the All-Star forward on their side - and Butler did enough on Wednesday night to spoil the Sixers' blemish-free record at home this term.

Kendrick Nunn scored 26 points and Bam Adebayo had 23 to help the Heat beat the Sixers 108-104 at the Wells Fargo Centre.

Butler and the Heat won their 20th game to improve to 20-8, and perhaps proved they are more than a one-man show.

"This is a team of one star?" Butler asked incredulously. "Who's our star, Bam? I'll take it. I'll take Bam as our star any day. I ain't worried about what anybody says. We're content with who we are."

The Sixers (20-9) had been 14-0 at home, including a 113-86 victory over the Heat last month.

They came within a late bucket or two of staying flawless in Philly.

Tobias Harris buried a three-pointer for the Sixers with 25.5 seconds left that made it 106-104 and they had a lifeline when Nunn missed twice at the free-throw line.

Al Horford, though, missed an open three-point attempt from the wing and the Heat escaped in a thriller.

Joel Embiid, who missed Sunday's rout by the Nets with an upper respiratory illness, led Philadelphia with 22 points and 19 rebounds. Harris scored 20 points and the Sixers struggled to get going until late against Miami's two-three zone that put them on the backfoot.

"We weren't making shots and when you're not making shots, especially when a team are playing zone, they're going to keep on doing it," Embiid said. "They did it all game and that's how they won."

Butler scored 14 points for the Heat and was pretty much a non-factor until late in his second game back in Philadelphia.

He was booed the first few times he touched the ball and continued to get jeers throughout the game.

He played 55 regular-season games for the Sixers last season, averaging 18.2 points after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota last November.

He also helped Philadelphia beat Brooklyn in the first round of the play-offs before the Sixers were eliminated in the second round by eventual champions Toronto.

Butler left Philadelphia in the off-season, signing a US$142 million (S$192.5 million), four-year deal with the Heat.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Butler has been a perfect fit for a team trying to return to the play-offs after missing out last season.

"I feel like I've coached a lot of guys like Jimmy that are adults, that are very serious about winning, about the process of winning," he said. "Ultra competitive. He's a max player. We wanted a max player, someone that would fit our culture and our system."

With a perfect home start still within reach, the Sixers coughed up the ball to Miami - and Butler crushed them with an assist on a three-pointer from Derrick Jones Jr that gave the Heat much-needed breathing room.

Butler sank two free throws with 33.9sec left, toying with his former team to the end.

"I don't think we had a sting to our defence," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "I give Miami credit, they crowded the paint. Sometimes it's just not your night."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2019, with the headline Heat too hot for Sixers to handle. Subscribe