The Sixers (32-21) hosted the Miami Heat (29-25) on Wednesday. Philadelphia wanted to extend its winning streak to three games heading into the All-Star break. Miami wanted to build on Tuesday's victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat sat in zone for most of the night, and the Sixers ran out of solutions on offense in the middle of the third quarter en route to a 109-104 defeat.

Before we get to the game, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Heat were without the services of Jimmy Butler, who is away from the team due to personal reasons.

Terry Rozier has a sprained right knee and was not available. Josh Richardson was out with a dislocated right shoulder.

Dru Smith is recovering from surgery on his right knee and is out for the season.

Erik Spoelstra started Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Caleb Martin, Nikola Jovic, 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 left hip impingement.

De'Anthony Melton is recovering from a stress response to lumbar spine soreness and remained out. As did Nico Batum, who has a strained left hamstring. Robert Covington remained out with a bone bruise in his left knee.

Kyle Lowry, who officially signed with the Sixers on Tuesday, is reconditioning for a return to competition and will join the team after the All-Star break.

Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Buddy Hield, Kelly Oubre Jr., KJ Martin, and Paul Reed.


- Coaches will never concede that garbage time is a real thing because there's always an opportunity to test things out in real environments, regardless of the score of the game. So, while many had (fairly) changed the channel or left the building in the recent stretch during which the Sixers were getting lit on fire every night, those trivial minutes actually paid some dividends for one of the team's best players.

Maxey used the opportunity to get reps with his midrange jumper, something he's struggled with all season long. And, whaddayaknow, it's been a worthwhile investment in the last couple games. Maxey laced a pair of pull-up middies in the fourth quarter of Monday's victory over the Cavaliers. In the first quarter of this game, he found the mark on a handful of jumpers in the midrange, shedding defenders on the move and rising up off the dribble.

While midrange jumpers as a dominant volume of your shot diet isn't efficient unless you're making them at an overwhelming clip, having that weapon as a counter move is critical to beating drop coverage in the pick-and-roll come playoff time. As importantly, it's a shot that he needs to be comfortable with as a star because he'll most often be using when his defender is behind him. When the games start to really count, Maxey will likely never be more open than when he's pulling up in the midrange. So, by all means, use the regular season as your practice ground. Every rep will help.

- I will stand up and raise my hand as the village idiot who criticized the decision to start Martin the last two games with Harris out. He's looked extremely comfortable in the first unit, and that has manifested in Martin finding stride as an energizer bunny.

The Sixers manufactured two points on possessions that looked doomed purely because Martin tip-toed around the dunker's spot and made himself available to teammates who were stuck in traffic. He was careful not to waste any time getting himself set, getting a foot down before the pass was made so that he could catch, step to the rim, and explode up before Miami recovered to the basket.

His athleticism wasn't on display just at the rim. There were a couple instances in which the ball swung his way and Martin drove the closeout or attacked the space hard to crack the paint. The only nit to pick is that he seemed to default to finishing with his left on a drive to the right side of the rim. As a player who shoots jumpers with his right hand, that's a bizarre quirk. But, great first half from him.

- It would be hard to know what to expect out of Ricky Council IV because we've seen so little of him. And while you don't really see his impact in the box score, that dude is really helping this team right now. It's not flashes; it's legitimate stretches of good play. So much so that Nurse needs to give real thought to whether he deserves a spot in the regular rotation after the All-Star break.

His lack of fear opens up his entire game. Council's shooting mechanics are not good, but that doesn't stop him from firing when he has space. The mechanic has matched the shooting success thus far, but it hasn't really mattered because he's so effective when he puts the ball on the floor. Council was the connector in the middle of the Heat zone for most of the night, and he had no issue processing the game when the ball came his way. He attacked hard at the rim, embracing the contact but focusing on converting. And if his aggression lifted a Miami defender to stop the ball, he intuitively left the dump-off pass for the teammate lurking in the dunker's spot.

He's got a long way to go, but Council's feel for the game has been on full display the last few games.


- Not the best night of shooting for Cam Payne, who was anything but bashful in letting it fly. I'm shocked that I haven't seen his shot get blocked yet because the release point is so low and he needs some time to get set in his shooting motion. But, even though he doesn't seem to get blocked often, shots that might be fairly open for some guys are not open for him because of his size and shooting mechanic.

Miami didn't defend him as if he were a sniper - nor should they have. But, they were able to eat up a chunk of space every time he prepared to shoot, and I wonder if that slide in shot quality as he's preparing to shoot makes it harder for him on nights when he's getting an impactful volume of attempts.

The Sixers (32-22) will resume their season at home against the New York Knicks (33-22) next Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can watch the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media

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