The NBA announced before Tuesday’s game between the 76ers and Miami Heat that their rematch scheduled for Thursday was being yanked from national television.
Apparently, two teams with so many players missing because of health and safety protocols and injuries weren’t deemed suitable for national TV. Even though the Sixers had All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, TNT replaced the Sixers-Heat matchup Thursday with Houston at San Antonio.
Based on Tuesday’s wild game, it might have been premature.
Despite the teams’ depleted lineups, the Sixers’ 137-134 overtime win over the visiting Heat was among the most entertaining of the season in the entire league.
The Sixers needed a superhuman performance by Embiid to beat what was essentially a Heat team of JV and varsity players. Then again, the same can be said of the Sixers during these COVID times.
In the Sixers’ previous two games, when they were outmanned because of the protocols and injuries, they couldn’t hang with Denver and Atlanta, and it was understandable.
This time, they were clearly the favorite.
Miami was without its two all-stars from last year, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, along with guard Goran Dragic. Those are three of the Heat’s four leading scorers.
Still, the Heat showed their typical grit and forced Embiid and Danny Green, among others, to have all-world performances. Embiid ended with 45 points, 16 rebounds and five steals. Green had 29 points, tying a Sixers single-game record with nine three-pointers.
The Heat had only eight available players. The Sixers had 10, but played only eight.
The edge for the Sixers was that they had their two All-Stars, Embiid and Simmons, who missed the previous two games because of swelling in his left knee. Simmons, who fouled out, had 12 assists, but attempted just two field goals.
This game had a little bit of everything, including 56 three-point attempts by Miami. It also had a star deciding enough was enough and taking it to another level, something that always makes for great television.
His team down by 13 early in the third quarter, Embiid knew it was time to take charge. He scored 20 points in the quarter, hitting all eight of his shots.
“We were down like 12, and I felt that is when I had to take over,” said Embiid, who also scored 11 in overtime.
The Sixers (8-4) are fortunate they have a player who can do that on a night when both teams faced adversity. While Embiid is the known, these COVID games also present the unknown.
For instance, Heat guard Gabe Vincent entered the game with 29 career points in 10 NBA games. He scored 24 against the Sixers. He was part of a scrappy group that never stopped fighting for the 4-5 Heat.
“Our guys put it out there, and our guys are in great shape and could have kept going another two overtimes,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It wasn’t lack of want or effort. Our guys emptied it all out there.”
If Thursday’s game comes anywhere close to matching Tuesday’s wild swings and one big play after another, the network could regret its decision to take these two teams off the schedule.