MIAMI — The Butler did it.
Jimmy Butler made 1-of-2 foul shots with 2.3 seconds left in overtime to lift the Miami Heat to a 117-116 overtime victory over the 76ers Saturday night.
The Sixers had a chance to win game. But out of a timeout, Tobias Harris misfired on a 23-foot corner three-pointer as time expired.
“It was a clean look,” said a disappointed Harris after the game. “I just missed the shot.”
He said “missing the shot and losing the game” were the most frustrating things about his night.
Yet, the Sixers (23-12) had their share of late fourth-quarter and overtime miscues that led to the loss.
Plus, the Heat took advantage of the Sixers’ decision to insert Al Horford into the game for the final 18 seconds of overtime. Before that, the Sixers had a lineup of Trey Burke, Harris, Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson and Ben Simmons to combat the Heat’s small-ball lineup.
However, the Sixers elected to sub Horford for Burke with 18 seconds left. Looking for a mismatch, the Heat switched Horford off Herro and onto Butler. Butler drew a foul on Horford while trying to make a move to the basket.
That foul put him on the line where he made the go-ahead foul shot in the closing seconds.
Butler finished 11-of-14 from the foul line while making just 7-of-21 shots en route to finishing with 25 points against his former team.
This was the Sixers’ second road loss in as many days. They suffered a 98-97 defeat to the struggling Orlando Magic on Friday.
Meanwhile, Miami improved to 24-8.
The Sixers made things too interesting late in regulation.
Harris missed a dunk with the Sixers up, 106-104, with 18 seconds remaining. The ball ended up in Embiid’s hands. Instead of passing the ball to a teammate, he held onto the ball looking to get fouled.
As Heat players swarmed around him, Embiid was stripped by Butler with 10.1 seconds left. That led to Herro’s three-pointer to put Miami up, 107-106, with 6.9 seconds remaining.
“There were lots of people open,” coach Brett Brown said of the play. “I thought he was going to just throw the ball. It is like time stood still. I kept expecting him to go find an open player. He didn’t, and they got a piece of the ball and made a tough three-pointer at the end.”
Embiid said he did not see the extra defender on that play.
“I was expecting them to foul me,” he said. “Also I didn’t want to make a pass that would lead to a turnover. It was kind of like you got to find that balance, and obviously I turned the ball over.”
Josh Richardson had a chance to knot the score from the foul line with the Sixers down, 108-106, with 1 second left.
He missed his first free throw. Then he intentionally missed the second one. The shot hit the backboard and skimmed the rim, allowing Ben Simmons to rebound the miss and score the putback to knot the score at 108 with .6 seconds, forcing overtime.
This game marked Richardson’s first contest at AmericanAirlines Arena since the Heat traded him to Philadelphia for Butler.
The Heat drafted Richardson out of Tennessee with the 40th overall pick in the 2015 draft pick. He averaged just 6.2 points while playing in 52 games with two starts as a rookie. The 26-year-old’s scoring increased each season in Miami to the point where he averaged a career-best 16.6 points last season. Richardson also started in all 154 games he played during his final two years in Miami.
“I mentioned it before that he’s one of our great stories of development,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Second-rounders are up against it. It’s not an easy path. The overwhelming majority of them don’t make it. You have to have some level of inner fortitude, work ethic and character. J. Rich checked all those boxes.”
However, Spoelstra said the Heat had to part ways with Richardson in order to get someone of Butler’s caliber.
On Saturday, Richardson had 17 points. He tried to treat this like any other game.
“I’m pretty much used to being in Philly, being with my new teammates,” he said before the game. “It turned into a good learning process for me.”
Asked before the game about his expected reception from the fans, Richardson responded, “I’m just ready to play basketball for real."
He did says that he had a good time in Miami and was good to the city. So he hoped to get a good reception.
That he did.
Richardson was the last Sixers starter introduced and received a warm welcome from the Heat faithful.
Harris played despite being listed as questionable with right hip soreness. He finished with 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting — including missing all four of his threes.
Simmons finished with 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
But the main story line had to do with the Sixers facing the Heat’s 2-3 zone.
The Heat used the zone to expose the Sixers in Miami’s 108-104 victory in Philly on Dec. 18. The Heat used the zone on 39 possessions. The Sixers responded by making just 38% of their shots against the zone.
On Saturday, Philly had some success when Miami went to the zone early on.
A lot of it had to do with making shots.
They made several key shots that got the Heat to discard the zone early on. In fact, the Sixers shot 57.9% and made 3-of-6 three-pointers in the first quarter to take a 33-28 advantage, thanks to a 17-4 run. Philly went on to take a 59-54 halftime cushion.
However, the Heat went back to the zone in the third quarter.
This time, the Sixers had a lot of open looks but had a tough time converting, making just 1-of-9 three-pointers in the quarter. As a result, the Heat outscored them, 31-20, in the quarter to take a 85-79 lead in the fourth quarter.