MIAMI — The 76ers had hoped to snap three skids while in South Florida.
Instead, they left here with a third straight double-digit road loss. This time, it was a 137-106 decision to the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday night.
It was a game in which the Sixers lacked energy and at times had bad body language.
Oh, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Jimmy Butler tormented his former teammates. The Heat swingman finished with a season-high 38 points to go with seven rebounds and two assists. He sat out the fourth quarter.
The Sixers (31-20) did a sign-and-trade with Butler last summer, sending him to the Heat and receiving Josh Richardson in return.
“I was definitely yelling, ‘Go for 40’ every time he scored,” said Heat All-Star power forward Bam Adebayo, who finished with 18 points and a game-high 11 assists. “It got in the fourth and I was like, ‘You have to go for 40’ and he was like ,'Nah, I’m cool. I’m going to get some rest.' OK, more shots for me.”
Joel Embiid would have liked to have more shots.
The Sixers’ All-Star center finished with a team-high 29 points to go with a game-high 12 rebounds. He made 9 of 14 shots and 9 of 11 free throws.
Butler and the Heat (34-15) are definitely having a much better year than coach Brett Brown’s Sixers.
The loss extended the Sixers’ losing streak to three games. It was also their fourth straight road loss and 10th in 12 games. They’re 9-18 on the road. And this marked the Sixers’ 10th setback in their last 11 games here in Miami.
Brown said before game that two things have contributed to the road struggles.
“I think, one, we haven’t played defense the way we have to play defense,” he said. “It starts and almost stops there for me. It’s significant what we do on the road vs. home.”
The second thing is three-point shooting. The Sixers have struggled to make three-pointers on the road.
“The combination of those two are punishing,” Brown said. “We do have the best in the league at home, but we have to be better and win on the road.”
The Sixers made 13 of 38 three-pointers but struggled to make stops. In fact, the defense was horrid, as the Heat got to wherever wanted to on the court. Miami also attempted several uncontested shots while shooting 56.5% from the field — including making 16 of 32 three-pointers (50%). The 137 points are the most the Sixers surrendered this season. They yielded 81 second-half points.
“We were soft,” Ben Simmons said.
They also didn’t continue to feed their best player, Embiid, in what was a solid bounce-back game from the second-worst shooting effort of his career.
The All-Star center finished with a team-high 29 points to go with a game-high 12 rebounds. He made 9 of 14 shots and 9 of 11 free throws.
This came two days after Embiid made just 1 of 11 shots from the floor while scoring 11 points against the Boston Celtics.
He responded Monday by making his first three baskets. Embiid went on to score 11 of the Sixers’ first 17 points on 5-for-6 shooting. His last basket during that stretch came on a three-pointer to put Philly up three points with 6 minutes, 1 second left in the quarter.
He came out motivated, fired up at the start.
“It should be like that every night,” Embiid said. “You know, still trying to figure out, you know, what I’m asked to do. Nights are different. You don’t know what you are getting. So some nights you get the ball, and some nights you don’t …”
Miami called a timeout after the three-pointer, and Embiid was subbed out of the game. He got only one shot attempt the rest of the quarter after reentering the game with 3:25 left in the period. He missed a 9-foot hook shot.
He scored only three points in the second quarter — all from the foul line. He went 3-for-4 from the foul line in that quarter and 0-for-3 from the field.
But his scoring just three second-quarter points had nothing to do with lack of effort. The big man ran rim to rim and played with energy. He just wasn’t be rewarded for his hustle.
Embiid also had just one shot attempt in the third quarter. Brown said it was a result of the Heat’s playing zone defense and double-teaming the ball.
“I don’t know,” Embiid said when asked if his lack of touches were the result of Miami’s defense. "If you want to give me the ball, I’m sure you can find a way.
“I don’t know why the ball didn’t. … I had a pretty good start and I don’t know what happened there. I have to go back and watch the tape. So I’m not sure.”
Moments later, Embiid was asked again about the Heat’s defensive strategy. He doubled down on his previous comments.
“I stand by what I said,” Embiid said. "If you want to get someone the ball, we can find a way. So then again, coaches only can have so much control.
“They are not on the court, shooting the ball or passing, making plays. All they can do is call plays and we just got to execute.”
Meanwhile, Butler stepped up his game in the second quarter. The five-time All-Star scored 17 of his points in that quarter on 6-for-9 shooting and making all five of his free throws.
His last points of the half came on a three-point play to put that Heat up, 53-48, with 1:43 before intermission. Miami went on to take a four-point cushion (56-52) at the half.
“Jimmy definitely had a heck of a game," Tobias Harris said. “He got it rolling in the beginning of the game. He was in a good rhythm all throughout the game.”
The Heat opened the third quarter on a 15-3 run to take a commanding 71-57 lead on Butler’s three-pointer with 8:54 left in the quarter.
Embiid scored eight points in the third quarter while making his lone shot attempt. He went on to add seven in the fourth.
Mike Scott added 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting — all three-pointers — off the bench. Simmons had 16 points and seven assists.
But it didn’t matter, as the Heat went on to lead by as many as 35 points.
“We weren’t able to find that defensive energy,” Harris said. “I thought in the first half we did a pretty good job. Late in the second quarter we gave up some easy ones. Then in the second half we were nonexistent all around.”
Harris noted that the Sixers fouled too much, sending the Heat to the foul. He also pointed out that they made a lot of jump shots.