Heat loss to 76ers shows why they must avoid play-in at all costs

In a game of runs, the Miami Heat let up the most crucial one of them all.
Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat
Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

In a game filled with ups and downs, the Miami Heat's offense reached rock bottom in the final stretch of the fourth quarter, resulting in a brutal loss to the Philadelphia 76ers 109-105 Thursday night at the Kaseya Center.

The Miami Heat's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers sets the stage for these teams to meet again in the play-in tournament.

Trailing 17-2 out of the gate, the Miami Heat appeared to be headed for a long night with both Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid getting to their spots and hitting shots with ease. But boosted by a lineup that was led by Kevin Love and Haywood Highsmith, Miami took a three-point lead with a 25-6 run topped off by a Caleb Martin three.

From there, the game was a textbook definition of "a game filled with runs" as each team traded punches and responded back strongly after falling behind.

Even with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo not playing like the stars they've proven they are, Miami found itself up 102-94 with 6:28 left in the fourth quarter. Erik Spoelstra decided to play a lineup of Butler, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Caleb Martin, Kevin Love and Haywood Highsmith, and stuck with them for the majority of the fourth.

The unit Spoelstra decided to throw out there to give the Heat the lead deserves a ton of credit for starting the fourth quarter strong, but Philadelphia decided to leave Jaquez and Martin open, and the offense started to unravel as the quarter went on.

Terry Rozier checked back in the game with 5:01 left, and Adebayo returned with 3:30 left after Spoelstra decided to roll with Love for an extended period of time as he was having his best game of the season. But even with the substitutions, Miami's offense could not generate any easy looks, with one possession having no ball movement and resulting in Rozier missing a three and layup after securing an offensive rebound.

In a matter of minutes, the 76ers hit Miami with a knockout blow and went on a 13-0 run to take a five-point lead. The Heat almost got up from the ten count after Rozier hit a big three to cut it to two. But with a chance to win the game after securing a stop, Jimmy Butler does what he's accustomed to doing and shot a three to win the game with the result being a miss.

"We couldn't generate enough good looks in our half-court offense down the stretch," Spoelstra said.

This was a win Miami needed to have after the Brooklyn Nets did them a favor and beat the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday to give them sole possession of the sixth seed. Instead of taking advantage, the Heat are now back in the seventh seed and have put the 76ers one game back of the Heat with the lone difference being one game in the loss column.

With the 76ers being a potential play-in opponent, Thursday night's game should worry Heat Nation about being in a one-game scenario against two scoring machines in Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

Although this loss does not end the Heat's chances at securing a playoff spot, it does dig a deeper hole for them to climb out of. And in a game that was in their hands to win, this can be a moment the Heat can look back on if they miss clinching a playoff berth.