The Sixers (41-35) visited the Miami Heat (42-33) on Thursday. Philadelphia wanted to tie the season series with Miami and inch closer to climbing out of the Play-In tournament. Miami wanted to clinch the season series with Philadelphia and gain space ahead of the Indiana Pacers for the six-seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Tyrese Maxey went for 37 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds to lead the Sixers past the Heat, 109-105.

Before we get to what I saw, some notes.

Contextual Notes

Maxey made his return to the lineup after missing three games with left hip tightness. It was the first game he and Joel Embiid had played together since January 25.

The Sixers were without the services of Tobias Harris, who suffered a left knee contusion in the final minute of Tuesday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, an MRI revealed a bad bruise and Harris is expected to miss one or two games.

De'Anthony Melton remained out with bone stress in his lumbar spine. As did Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.

Mo Bamba is recovering from an illness and missed the game.

Jeff Dowtin Jr. was converted from his two-way contract to a standard NBA deal on Thursday, the team announced. He is on a G League assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats and was out. Ricky Council IV and Terq Smith are on two-way G League assignments and were not available.

Nick Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nico Batum, and Embiid.

The Heat were without the services of Tyler Herro, who has medial tendinitis in his right foot.

Josh Richardson is recovering from right shoulder surgery and was out.

Orlando Robinson is on assignment with Miami's G League affiliate and was not available. Cole Swider and Alondes Williams are on two-way G League assignments and were out.

Erik Spoelstra started Terry Rozier, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Jovic, and Bam Adebayo.


- Maxey has a knack for going absolute scorched earth in the first quarter in his returns from multi-game absences. The offense was quite bumpy in the first quarter on Tuesday as teammates tried to figure out how to re-integrate Embiid without slipping into total deference when it came to getting their own bites of the meal. There was no such turbulence at takeoff on Thursday, and that was all thanks to Maxey.

He started off with a layup driving around Embiid, hit a pull-up three in transition, and then knocked another down out of his crossover package in isolation. I actually thought Maxey leaned too much towards the difficult threes as the quarter wore on and was shooting himself out of rhythm, but he quickly made me eat crow with a slew of drives to re-ignite the flame.

The scoring and shooting stole the spotlight, but Maxey's playmaking deserves praise, too. Seven assists against no turnovers at halftime is outstanding even if assists and turnovers, as metrics, do not necessarily showcase quality of playmaking. But, there were clear hints that Maxey was reading the floor at a high level.

One possession that stood out featured him dancing with Adebayo on the perimeter before blowing by Miami's defensive anchor. He could've easily trusted his speed and craft at the rim and opted to attack the cup for his own, but Maxey recognized that him blowing by Adebayo meant that Paul Reed had to have smaller defenders on him. So, Maxey took the ball as close to the basket as he could before dumping off to Reed for a finish at the rim. Not the flashiest pass, but going through that thought process in real time is superb.

There were a handful of sequences that threatened to flip the game on its head and put the Sixers on the ropes in the first half. The tides turned in Philadelphia's favor the moment Maxey came back into the game. Plus-20 in the 19 minutes and 17 seconds Maxey was on the court in the first half.

He wasn't anywhere close to done, either. When the Sixers needed someone to keep the offense stable with the likes of Reed and KJ Martin on the floor, Maxey laced contested pull-up midranger after contested pull-up midranger. And when the Sixers needed someone to close out the win, Maxey went right back to that element of his game.

The pull-up midrange jumper is the biggest development in Maxey's skillset this season, and he's really worked on implementing it into games since Embiid went down on January 30. When he didn't have the energy or the space to get off a deep three, Maxey went to his new toy, separating from whichever Heat defender was in his way and knocking down a long two to save the possession for Philadelphia.

- Even when the game took its natural turns away from the Sixers, everyone on Philadelphia's side should be content with the shots they got against the Heat zone. They knew Miami would use it, they know they've struggled with it (in fairness, they had success against it the last time these two teams played), and they still approached it with patience and purpose.

When the Sixers were at their best against it, they were quick to flash to spots, make passes, and relocate to vacant spaces on the weak side of the floor. They just didn't cash in on those looks. If good processes are axed by negative shooting variance, you'll shrug and move on. The important takeaway for the big picture is that they have designs for generating good shots if teams go zone, not that those shots didn't fall on a random night.


- Had they not absolutely lost their minds in the final minute of each of the first three quarters, the Sixers would've been hanging out on the bench with smiles across their faces in the last five minutes of the game because they blew the Heat out of the water. Turnovers in the backcourt; hoop and the harm on back-to-back shots; throwing possessions away with bad passes and spoon-feeding Miami transition opportunities.

The Heat are not a good halfcourt offense. You keep them at bay by making them score against set defense. Just the worst sequences you could possibly imagine to close quarters out.

- Of course, the Sixers also had their fair share of bad moments against zone. They were at their worst against it at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter. They forced passes that weren't there (looking at you, Batum and Oubre) and made slow decisions that compounded within the same possession to force the team to play against the shot clock.

Adjacent to this point, it was very Sixersy for Batum to have his worst game of the season in this affair, and even his absolute worst sequence of the season in the fourth. He forced some bad passes for easy live-ball turnovers and got beat by Butler on the other end. He was a big reason the Heat took the lead to open the fourth quarter.

Buddy Hield's weapon is a big tool in beating zones, and he had looks to punish the soft spots of Miami's alignment in this game. It's getting late early for him. I get that guys billed as snipers are inherently streaky, but he's not giving this team enough elsewhere to stay on the court when shots aren't falling. He has to start cashing in on the open looks he's getting.

- I came out of this game questioning Nurse despite the outcome. I understand there are rotations to be ironed out, but Lowry was out far too long when Miami made its run in the early stages of the fourth quarter. The Sixers sorely needed some organization on offense, and I briefly wondered whether I had missed him leaving the game with an injury because it felt like he was on the bench for a while. That's another way of saying that Cam Payne was in the game for too long while the Heat turned up the fire. He was foul prone all night, and obviously didn't bring the control on offense to outweigh the woes on defense.

I get Lowry is in his late 30s, but this is a rare regular-season game in which you want to leave everything on the court.

The Sixers (42-35) will visit the Memphis Grizzlies (26-50) on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus.

The Ultimate South Jersey Pizza Guide

More From 97.3 ESPN