Coach Erik Spoelstra focused on stopping rookie Ben Simmons by having veteran James Johnson defend him, and the plan worked as Simmons scored 10 points, had no free throws or 3-point baskets, and made only a single field goal in the second half as frustration set in.
Joel Embiid had to carry the load, and with the Heat defense focused on him, managed only 4 of 18 from the field , along with 7 rebounds for the entire game.
Simmons started the game with his usual athletic dunk to give the Sixers an opening 2-0 lead, which the Heat matched and went on to an early five-point, 7-2 lead.
Miami kept the pressure on for the entire first half, building a 12-point lead at one time, but went into half time leading by a slim 53-49 margin.
Going into the final quarter down 74-73 the bench unit caught fire as Wayne Ellington knocked down 3 three-pointers, Justise Winslow connected on two corner treys (sorry no nasty dunk), Dwyane made 4 timely baskets, and Kelly Olynyk set some wicked picks.
The Heat took a 78-77 edge with 10 minutes left, went on a 10-1 run in the next 3 and half minutes for a 88-78 lead and 6:39 left in the game, to get some breathing room.
From that point on the Sixers managed to get within 5 points on a Belinelli 3-pointer at 1:24 left, but no closer than that.
The final figures showed Hassan Whiteside scored 26 points, Dwyane Wade 16 points, and all ten Heat players made contributions with baskets, rebounds, and nine had at least one assist.
On the Sixers side Dario Saric had 20 points, JJ Redick 19 points, and Embiid’s 17 points, to lead the parade in their futile attempt, as Embiid’s 5 fouls limited his floor time late in the game.
Robert Covington‘s 0 for 10 night joined Simmons in leading the under-performers for the visiting team.
Even though James Johnson’s box score didn’t sparkle, his defense on Simmons disrupted the entire Sixers offense, and gave an opportunity for the Heat’s rotation players to take control of the game in the last quarter.
Kudos to Spoelstra for designing a winning strategy, which his players executed extremely well for him.
The 9-point win inches the Heat closer to a symbolic positive point differential for the season, which now stands at -0.1 due to the early season blowouts.