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April 09, 2019

Instant observations: Sixers get demolished by Heat in Dwyane Wade's home finale

Tuesday night was Dwyane Wade's final game in Miami, and the Heat made sure to hand the Sixers another big time butt whooping for old time's sake. With most of the fourth quarter spent clearing out for Wade, a lineup filled with Sixers bench players fell 122-99 to Miami.

Here's what I saw on Tuesday evening. If you sat through all 48 minutes, you deserve a Purple Heart.

The Good

• At least the Sixers aren't the Lakers?

That's all I got on the "positive" side tonight. I watched and wrote about this game while suffering from flu-like symptoms, so it was even worse for me than it was for many of you.

(I hope you chose the Phillies instead.)

The Bad

• I have two different theories for what was going on with Jimmy Butler on Tuesday night. 

  1. Butler was out a little too late in South Beach and was still feeling the effects of that at tip-off. 
  2. Butler was trying to look out for his old buddy Dwyane Wade, making sure he had a great home finale by allowing him to score at will.

In fairness to Butler, it's not like the Sixers had absolutely anything to play for on Tuesday night. But if he was going to lolly-gag around, toss passes into the backcourt, and provide a welcome mat to Wade on his drives, why bother playing at all? It's not like he built up any cardio playing the way he did.

Let the young guys like Zhaire Smith play if this is the best you're willing to offer. All it did was expose Butler to freak injury risk and actively hurt the Sixers on the floor.

• At what point do we start getting concerned about Tobias Harris' struggles to knock down outside shots? I know that he's not going to shoot as poorly as he did against Miami on a regular basis, but he has very quietly been below average from beyond the three-point line since joining the Sixers. If not for the hot start he got off to, the numbers would look even worse, and as it is he entered the game shooting 34.1 percent from beyond the arc.

He's not a good enough finisher to be an offensive hub if he's not making shots. And it's not like he's suddenly getting tougher looks, either, with Philadelphia's offense often freeing him up for wide-open looks. He just can't get anything to drop, and that's a bit more concerning to me than the guys who are saving their legs for the playoffs. When should we expect him to bust out of the slump?

With Harris' defensive concerns, the best version of him was going to be a somewhat shaky bet as a max player. If he's suddenly a below-average shooter (I doubt that's the case, but still) there's no way in hell you can justify paying him major money.

• You know a game really means nothing at all when the starting front court to open the second half is Greg Monroe and Amir Johnson. What sort of 1983 ass lineup is that?

• Jonah Bolden entered the game dealing with left knee soreness and was forced to sit for the final 2.5 quarters when it flared up during the game. Early April basketball sucks, man.

• If there's a less valuable offensive player in the league than Jonathon Simmons, you'd be hard pressed to find him.

• It's truly remarkable how bad Philadelphia's options are behind Joel Embiid. Boban Marjanovic pulls down offensive rebounds and dunks from his tiptoes, but he's a total liability on offense whenever he has to move. The Heat made him look silly in multiple ways, stretching him out to the perimeter and killing him with lobs over the top to guys like Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside.

The other guys they have to turn to are no great shakes. Johnson has no juice left, Monroe never had it to begin with. Bolden's mind does not match his physical tools. What are the Sixers supposed to do in the playoffs when Embiid has to sit? Small ball has not exactly been a strength for them when they've turned to it, though that may end up being the answer.

• Zhaire Smith's inexperience is glaring when he's asked to play a bigger role right now. You can tell how much he would have benefitted from a full season in the NBA vs. the brief taste he has gotten because he's not at the point where he can turn his ideas into production.

That's understandable and fine, at least from a long-term perspective. Unfortunately, the Sixers may have to rely on Smith to play minutes in the playoffs, and that being the case, his eagerness may get the best of him. 

The Ugly

• The Sixers and Wade's Heat were never really good at the same time. By the time "The Process" delivered a team with title aspirations to Philadelphia, Wade was a shadow of what he once was.

But I don't think anyone who watched him play during his career lacks appreciation for what Wade was able to accomplish. With help from post-prime Shaquille O'Neal, Wade was able to win a title with one of the most overwhelming individual performances in Finals history. Despite being the face of the Miami franchise, it was Wade who later took a step back to allow LeBron James to reach his apex, setting pride aside for the betterment of the team.

There are a lot of guys who would not have done the same in his position, and Wade became one of the rare stars to get a different and still successful second act. Strip aside how fun he was to watch at his peak, how dominant he was earlier in his career, and there's a lesson all basketball players can take from watching his career unfold.

It would definitely serve these Sixers well to follow his example. You can't always win big as "The Guy," but if you channel your energy correctly, you can be part of a more successful whole.

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleNeubeck

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