The Sixers traveled to Miami for a pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday night. It couldn’t have gone much worse. The final score was 120-85 in Miami’s favor. To quote Doc Rivers: the Heat did everything “harder and better” than the Sixers. People have called this Philadelphia squad frontrunners, and it’s hard to argue after a performance like this. The Sixers’ tendency to crumble in big moments is troubling.
Joel Embiid gutted it out through multiple injuries and, if you’re to believe the broadcast, heartbreak over losing the MVP award. If you watched the game, it’s probably easy to sum up Embiid’s struggles as a combination of great Miami defense and his broken skull, which took an unpleasant knock in the first half.
Meanwhile, very few players showed up in Embiid’s stead. James Harden started strong but finished ice-cold, while Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey were just not good enough. The Sixers’ success rides almost entirely on the starting five. If the stars don’t have it, there’s no one on the bench to pick up the slack.
Here’s what we learned from Tuesday’s miseryfest.
Sixers-Heat Game 5 takeaways: Embiid is not himself
Joel Embiid scored six points in the first half. He looked much better out of the gates in the third quarter, but finished the game with only 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting. That’s just not enough for the NBA scoring champ and MVP runner-up. It’s clear the Sixers’ big man does not have his normal stuff right now, which makes it all the more difficult to compete with Miami’s swarming defense on the road.
Embiid’s mere presence exacted major change over the series in Philadelphia. His decoy status opened up the offense for James Harden and company in new ways. That said, when shots aren’t falling on the road, you need your stars to be stars. Embiid is one of the five best players on Earth, but he’s not playing like it right now. And, after the game, he gave what could be summed up as the most heartbreaking quote of the season.
The entire made-up narrative around his MVP disappointment was disheartening, and to hear some claim Embiid “played well at home” is only proof that people didn’t really watch Game 3 or 4. Embiid has not been in MVP form since the Toronto series, and he’s probably not going to return to MVP form in Game 6. Philadelphia will have to dig deep. It will take a collective effort to win the next game, not to mention a Game 7 on the road. We’ll see if they have it in them.