With 25 seconds left in regulation, the Philadelphia 76ers had the ball and a 106-104 lead. Jimmy Butler had just split a pair of free throws, and it looked like Miami would need to foul and hope the Sixers missed at the line.
That didn’t happen.
Butler poked the ball away from Joel Embiid, and Tyler Herro ran to the other end and knocked down a 3. Miami had a one-point lead with 6.9 seconds to go.
A wild sequence ensued in the final seconds — Ben Simmons darted from the 3-point line to grab a rebound off an intentional Josh Richardson free-throw miss and tied the game with less than a second to go. The game went into overtime, when each team traded baskets.
With 2.3 seconds left, Butler again stepped to the line, this time with a tie game of 116. He again split the pair, but Tobias Harris missed a corner 3. the Heat escaped with a 117-116 victory to improve to 24-8 on the season and climb up to second in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat and the Sixers played a competitive game, with neither team leading by more than 10 points. Similar to close wins against the above-.500 Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers recently, Miami found a way to come away with a victory.
Neither of Miami’s likely All-Stars, Butler and Bam Adebayo, played well Saturday night. Butler opened the game with an air ball on a wide open corner 3 and shot just 7-for-21 for the night. But the offense still hummed along smoother with him in the game, and Butler dished out nine assists. On one point midway through the fourth, a Butler post-up led to a Goran Dragic 3. The Heat should do more of that.
Butler gets the mismatch in the post, so Simmons doubles but the backside rotation is two steps slow and Dragic gets a wide open look. pic.twitter.com/8KixP0lB0X— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) December 29, 2019
And as for Adebayo, he shot just 5-for-14 against Embiid. But he made a crucial layup over Embiid with 29 seconds left in overtime to give the Heat a 116-114 win. Embiid again sagged off Adebayo on defense, and the Heat center never made him pay with a made jumper.
Miami again used the zone defense for significant stretches against the Sixers, and it yielded mixed results. On some possessions, Philadelphia successfully found an open jumper in the middle of the zone. And twice in overtime, Simmons connected on alley-oop dunks in the half-court.
In fact, the Heat went to the zone after Duncan Robinson picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. Robinson hit four 3-pointers on the night, and Erik Spoelstra opted to keep him in. But the knockdown shooter committed his fifth foul in the third period, and Spoelstra only played him in last-possession situations the rest of the way. I would have liked to have seen Robinson come into the game earlier.
Derrick Jones Jr. rose into the air for 13 points, including a few incredible dunks. Jones also played some of his great defense, as the Heat used him and Butler at the top of their 2-3 match-up zone. On the flip side, Jones missed all four of his attempts from downtown. He needs to make those.
The Heat will play the Washington Wizards Monday.