PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After evening the series earlier in the week, the Sixers are on the verge of elimination after a brutal loss to the Miami Heat in Game 5. The Sixers and Heat will play Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at 7 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night and try to force a Game 7.
Here are three things to watch in tonight’s game:
How will Joel Embiid play?READ MORE: 5-Year-Old Boy Injured In North Philadelphia Shooting, Police Say
Ever since Embiid came back in the series against the Heat, the Sixers have looked like the better team, except for Game 5. Embiid didn’t look like himself, and that impacted the way the rest of the team played on Tuesday night.
Embiid had 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in the 120-85 blowout loss to the Heat. During the loss, he took a shot to his face from basketball after Dewayne Dedmon went for a rebound. He also looked like he hurt his back while diving for a loose ball.
After those incidents, Embiid couldn’t get into a rhythm on offense as he dealt with Miami’s stingy defense. He also didn’t have the same impact defensively as he did in Games 3 and 4.
The TNT broadcast claimed Embiid was moping around because of the recent MVP news, but the injuries he’s dealing with – a fractured right orbital bone, a torn ligament in his right thumb, and recently coming off a concussion – might’ve just really affected him in Game 5.
It’ll be interesting to see how Doc Rivers will counter Miami’s defense in Game 6 as the Sixers really need to get their MVP finalist going if they want any chance of forcing a Game 7.
If Embiid isn’t himself, which Sixers will step up?
If Embiid looks the same way he did in Game 5, it’ll be up to his other teammates in the starting lineup – mainly James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris – to step up to the moment and help the Sixers force a Game 7.
With Embiid not being able to carry the Sixers offensively, his other teammates weren’t able to get anything going against Miami. Every single member of the starting lineup had a negative plus-minus in Game 5.
In Game 4, Harden had a game that showed why the Sixers traded for the former MVP. He erupted for 31 points and hit six 3-pointers, but he’s lost a step compared to the player he was in Houston.READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Teen Pilot Who Landed Plane On Bridge In Ocean City Shares How He Survived New Mexico Plane Crash
Maxey might be the most important member of the starting lineup other than Embiid. When Maxey is playing his best basketball, the Sixers are the best version of themselves. The energy the 21-year-old Kentucky product plays with is infectious.
In Game 5, Maxey was indecisive at times and missed some key shots, but he’s still playing well in the playoffs in his first year as a starter. He’s averaging 20.8 points and 3.9 assists per game and shooting 40.3% on treys.
Harris has been excellent during the Sixers’ postseason run. He’s been playing great defense, rebounding well, and confidently picking his spots over defenders.
But Harris, like Maxey, also wasn’t efficient in Game 5 as he shot 5 for 14 from the field for 12 points.
Harris stepped up in Games 1 and 2 without Embiid and scored 27 and 21 points in those games, respectively.
If Embiid isn’t himself in Game 6, guys like Harden, Maxey, and Harris will need to be aggressive and pick up the scoring load to help the big fella.
The NBA is a make-or-miss league, and the series between the Sixers and Heat has been the perfect example of that. Neither team has really been able to shoot the ball from downtown away from their homecourt.
The Heat didn’t shoot well in Game 1 in Miami, but besides that game, they’ve better than 39% on 3s in every game at FTX Arena, including shooting 48.3% in Game 2.
Neither team has shot better than 29% from 3-point range this series away from their homecourt. And if that trend remains true, it obviously works to the Sixers’ advantage. In their two home games, the Sixers shot nearly 50% on 3-pointers in both games.MORE NEWS: Police: 4-Year-Old In Stable But Critical Condition After Being Struck By SUV In West Philly
Danny Green drained seven 3-pointers in Game 3 for 21 points as the Sixers dominated the Heat, 99-79. He’s shooting 77% on 3-pointers at the Wells Fargo Center compared to 21% from distance in Miami.