MIAMI — The 76ers' final game before Jimmy Butler takes the court ended victoriously.
They defeated the Miami Heat, 124-114, Monday night to improve to 9-6 overall, and 2-6 on the road. The Sixers also split their two games since the blockbuster trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves was agreed upon on Saturday.
None of the players involved were able to play until the trade was finalized on Monday. Butler will make his Sixers debut on Wednesday at Orlando.
But Joel Embiid and JJ Redick led the Sixers to victory without him.
Embiid finished with game highs of 35 points and 18 rebounds for his 14th double-double in 15 games. There was a lot of focus on his matchup with Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Eleven of Whiteside's points came on 5-for-6 shooting in the first quarter. He got into foul trouble and went on to miss his only two shots for the rest of the game.
The two have been rivals on the court and had heated exchanges on social media. Embiid declined to talk trash following the game.
"Playing against every NBA player, I just want to go out and dominate," Embiid said. "Tonight, I'm just going to chill."
Why the sudden change? Embiid is the master of trash talking.
"I pick and choose," he said. "I think I'm starting to grow a little bit in the NBA. Like I said before, it's never personal to me. It's all fun."
At 24, Embiid said he's reaching another level in regard to growth.
Redick added 25 points. Ben Simmons had 13 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
Markelle Fultz had a poor shooting night, scoring five points on 2-for-8 shooting. He made 1 of 3 free throws to go with five assists.
Fultz's shooting form at the foul line is getting worse — at least it appeared that way Monday. His hitch on free throws with 6 minutes, 9 seconds left in the second quarter might be something he'd like to erase. Fultz nearly hit himself in the head before double-clutching on the pair of foul shots. It was more pronounced on the second attempt. He made the first and missed the second.
Fultz said the ball slipped out of his hands on both attempts.
"I'm not really worried about it," he said. "I work on my game. Everybody knows how hard I work. So it happens. The thing is, I don't really care about what people say or what people are going to say. I really don't give a [bleep], for real.
"I work on my game and that's how it's going to go."
Coach Brett Brown said every so often you'll see Fultz shoot the way he did.
"Then all of a sudden, he'll come back and he'll take rise up fadeaway jump shots and look like a real sort of fluid type of player, real fluid motion on his shot," Brown said.
On those occasions, Brown said, you wouldn't know there was a problem. Also, the coach said Fultz's defense was exceptional.
Wilson Chandler also started for the Sixers.
Reserve post player Mike Muscala returned after missing three games. He was sidelined with a facial laceration and a broken nose after colliding with T.J. McConnell on Nov. 6 during practice. He wore a protective mask against the Heat.
Muscala (13 points) and reserves Furkan Korkmaz (career-high 16) and Landry Shamet (10) were the Sixers' other double-figure scorers.
Goran Dragic paced the Heat (5-8) with 22 points.
In addition to Butler, the Sixers received Justin Patton in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.
Saric and Covington said their goodbyes on Instagram on Monday. Covington sent his gratitude to the Sixers and Philadelphia for allowing him to grow as a player over the last four years.
"Thru the ups and downs, I learned a lot here and y'all always had our back," Covington posted. "It's been a incredible journey and I definitely wouldn't change it for the world. I built friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. Now a new journey awaits and I'm thankful for this opportunity. Until next time Philly!!!"
Saric said it was an honor to be a part of the Sixers organization and the city.
"I gave hundred percent every game to make the city proud," Saric said. "Thank you Philly! The life goes on. It's time for new adventures."