Heat expose Sixers’ depth problems in series opener

Published May 4, 2022, 11:00 AMRenee Ticzon

With Joel Embiid still out, the 76ers badly need a spark off the bench to help them counter the Heat’s deep rotation.

The NBA playoffs expose every team’s weakness. Opponents come better prepared as they are focused on just one competitor, so it makes sense that they zone in a lot more.

In their first matchup in the semifinals, the Miami Heat exposed the Philadelphia 76ers’ true weakness – their rotation.

The 76ers had a 13-man rotation, while the Heat only played 10 guys. Logically, this would mean that Philadelphia was able to spread out each player’s playing time but what happened was the opposite.

In reality, it was Miami that maximized their rotation. Eight of the 10 guys played more than 20 minutes on the floor compared to Philadelphia’s five. This gave their starters more than enough time to rest, making them more productive come the endgame.

The Heat also doubled the 76ers’ bench scoring, 42-21. This was led by Tyler Herro who finished with a team-high 25 points with four made 3s. But more than his scoring, Herro also filled in the shoes of Kyle Lowry, who is still out from a hamstring injury. He added seven assists to his tally and helped get four other teammates into double figures.

Over in Philadelphia, the starters were stretched out to the fullest. James Harden played more than 34 minutes, while Tobias Harris played almost 37. Without Joel Embiid, the 76ers were forced to keep their starters in longer, even if they were struggling all game long. 

Harden shot 5-of-13 and banked in just two 3-pointers. Tyrese Maxey was 6-of-15 in the 35 minutes he played. Georges Niang was the only bench player with significant playing time, but he ended up with no baskets after shooting 0-of-7.

That’s why when the second half rolled around, the starters’ fatigue was extremely hard to miss out on. Miami outscored Philadelphia 56-41 in the final two quarters. Herro and Bam Adebayo combined for 25 points, while Harris was the only 76er that got into double-digits with 13.

If the 76ers want to take Game 2, they need to find that spark off the bench. They need to find someone who can match or at least come close to what Herro is for the Heat, especially in terms of scoring. Without Embiid, it’s quite obvious that Harden and Harris are the only real offensive threats, so Philadelphia needs to find a third option fast.