3 Ways the Heat can beat the 76ers on Christmas 

With Joel Embiid sidelined, can Jimmy Butler be the best player on the court and lead the Miami Heat to a primetime win?
Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Three
Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Three / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

How can the Miami Heat beat the Philadelphia 76ers in their Christmas Day matchup at Kesaya Center? Here are three keys for the Heat to improve to 18-12.

Make sure Philadelphia’s other star doesn’t beat them

Just because Joel Embiid is sidelined with a right ankle sprain doesn’t mean the Heat are off the hook. 76ers point guard Tyrese Maxey presents some potential problems for Miami’s defense.

Embiid is leading the league in scoring, averaging 35 points per game on 54% shooting. He has 31, 51, 40, 42 and 35 points over his last five games. He hasn’t scored fewer than 30 points in a game since Nov. 15. Rightfully, he’s considered the MVP favorite. All of this may overshadow Maxey’s recent efforts. 

Over his last four games, Maxey has scored 21, 29, 35 and 33 points while shooting 51.2% from the floor. Maxey is a jitterbug point guard who speeds past the point of attack and slices through defenses. At 6.8 assists per game, his drive-and-kick game is gasoline for Philadelphia’s top-rated offense.

The Heat have had issues with their point-of-attack defense this season, giving up big games to the likes of Anthony Edwards, Coby White and Trae Young in recent games. Coach Erik Spoelstra has pointed to the point-of-attack defense as an area of concern. They’ll need to corral Maxey before he revs to top speed, contest his pull-up attempts and keep him off the foul line.

2. Win the 3-point battle

The Heat are making a league-best 39.6% of their 3s, but the 76ers aren’t far behind, shooting 38.1% from distance. At the risk of over simplification, this game, especially with Embiid out, could simply come down to which team makes the most shots from beyond the arc.

Maxey (3.3 3-pointers made per game), De’Anthony Melton (2), Kelly Oubre (1.5) and Nic Batum (1.4) are Philadelphia’s top 3-point shot makers.

3. A Jimmy Butler takeover

OK, I lied. Maybe the easiest way for the Heat to win this game is by Butler taking it over. Butler, who is 5-3 in Christmas Day games, has missed the last two games with a calf strain. He’s listed as questionable for Monday night, but should be able to give it a go. If he plays, the 76ers don’t have a great wing option to defend him. 

Tobias Harris, Oubre, Batum, Marcus Morris Sr. and Melton could all take turns, but if Butler comes out looking to make a statement, all will have their hands full. 

With Embiid out, Butler is the best player on the court. The Heat will need him to play like it.