The Sixers (37-30) hosted the Miami Heat (37-30) on Monday. Philadelphia wanted to build on Saturday's victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Miami wanted to push its winning streak to three games. Tyrese Maxey flirted with a 30-point triple-double to power the Sixers to victory, 98-91, in a game that had meaningful playoff seeding implications.

Before we get to what I saw, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Heat were without the services of Jimmy Butler, who has a right foot contusion.

Tyler Herro has medial tendinitis in his right foot and was out.

Kevin Love missed the game with a right heel bruise. Nikola Jovic has a strained right hamstring and was out. Josh Richardson is recovering from surgery on his right shoulder and was not available.

Cole Swider and Alondes Williams are on two-way assignments with Miami's G League affiliate and were out.

Erik Spoelstra started Terry Rozier, Duncan Robinson, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Haywood Highsmith, and Bam Adebayo.

The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who is recovering from a procedure to address a meniscus injury in his left knee.

Tobias Harris was out with a sprained right ankle.

De'Anthony Melton has bone stress in his lumbar spine and remained out. As did Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee. Nick Nurse told reporters at Sunday's practice that Covington is in the ramp-up phase of his recovery, but his workload is managed on a daily basis due to the nature of the injury.

Kai Jones has a strained right hamstring and was out. Terq Smith is on a two-way G League assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats and was not available.

Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nico Batum, and Mo Bamba.


- The Sixers were predictably very up and down in their zone offense (and more down than up, at that). But, the good moments were really good, and largely because Philadelphia cobbled together enough meaningful ball movement to get high-value shots when their more dynamic personnel shared the floor.

One of Philadelphia's best possessions of the first half started with Oubre attacking the right baseline and beating Miami's initial rotation to the basket. The scramble to protect the paint gave Oubre an opening to kick to the weak-side wing, and another swing pass against the Heat rotation redeemed a Maxey open corner three to put the Sixers up 10 late in the first quarter.

The baseline cutting was also consistent; surprise, surprise - it produced easy scores at the rim as long as Philadelphia actually got the ball to the soft spot around the free throw line.

I find that the phrase "Heat culture" induces nausea, but you can't whine about talent disparity when you're playing them. They may not have the star talent to win the paper war against the best teams in the league on nights when Butler is out. They had more players out - including Butler - than the Sixers did in this game. But, they're proof that you can play with intelligence and strategic principles and combine to make up for a talent deficit with guys who can each do some different things and are willing to work as a group.

A lot of teams - including the Sixers - can be that in their own ways, but you have to make quick decisions and execute with conviction. When things were rolling for Philadelphia early on, they did exactly that.

- Bamba's good games are often tied to making threes, catching lobs, and blocking shots. And, to be fair, he did all of those things for Philadelphia on Monday. But, this game felt like the first time in a while - maybe ever - that I could say he played with a real motor. Outstanding effort plays from him in this one. He even beat Adebayo to a loose ball in the backcourt to give Philadelphia another possession starting on the Sixers' side of the floor.

- Couple guys to spotlight. First, Lowry, who I feel has been up and down thus far with the Sixers but is still smart as hell on the court. He dove over the scorer's table and nearly took Matt Cord's head off trying to save a bad pass from going out of bounds. The Sixers certainly can't afford any more injuries, but I'll always praise that effort.

Second is Oubre. I've probably undersold how good he's been lately. But, he really used his athleticism in this game. Cutting for emphatic dunks is one thing. But, helping this group on the glass is so critical to their margin of error right now.

Third is Maxey, who fell just short of a 30-point triple-double. We've seen him dial up the scoring during this stretch without Embiid. But, his playmaking has taken a backseat, and it's limited his ability to be the top guy in a way that is conducive to winning games right now. Not on Monday. He was the team's most dynamic scorer for most of the night and shared the meal with his teammates. It was a legitimate superstar game; effective and impactful on multiple levels.


- The cutting around the baseline against Miami's zone only matters if the passes are good. That's a rather diplomatic way of saying that you need to both have the correct guys on the court and have them in positions to actually read the floor and process options as they present.

As capable a shooter as Batum is, he should be roaming around the free throw line whenever the Heat leave their man schemes. Not only does he have a great feel for passing, but he also knows exactly how to activate rotations in a zone scheme - downhill pressure, threaten the paint. Batum isn't the quickest on his feet by any stretch, but he knows to up the pace in short distances because it will force rotations.

That is all to say, he obviously can't play all 48 minutes, but you're doing yourselves a disservice if he's not roaming around the foul line every possession he's on the court against zone defense. When things got ugly for the Sixers in the second quarter, it was because they had no solutions for zone defense. Most of the passing was inconsequential, and the ones that would've actually progressed plays were timed poorly or telegraphed and thus intercepted or deflected. To make matters worse, there were times when Batum was on the court but not slotted in that sweet spot. Having, say, KJ Martin in that position does nothing for your offense.

- That brings me to another point - you can't have a quick hook for Paul Reed and then respond by giving minutes to Martin in this particular matchup. What exactly is the value-add there?

- The Sixers finding success against Miami's zone and then blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead because they couldn't solve a full-court press was effectively the same as the Jaws tagline of "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water".

The Sixers (38-30) will kick off a west coast road trip with a visit with the Phoenix Suns (39-29) on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 10 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig

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