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Heat lose nail-biter to Sixers, 106-102

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Miami fell to 10th place in the East.

NBA: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat started their post-All Star break push for the playoffs with a 106-102 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Heat fell to 26-31 on the season and to 10th place in the East, a game-and-a-half behind eighth-place Detroit.

For much of the second half of the game, the Heat played with great intensity. Dwyane Wade made some sweet passes for easy scores, Derrick Jones Jr. made his return from an eight-game absence immediately felt and Miami played some tough-minded defense.

The Heat turned a 10-point deficit in the first half into a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter. A Wade drive to the basket gave the Heat a one-point lead with less than two minutes to go. But about 50 seconds later, J.J. Redick made a 3-pointer. On the Heat’s subsequent possession, Dion Waiters missed a 3.

Sometimes in the NBA, that’s what it comes down to.

Ultimately, the Heat couldn’t take advantage of Joel Embiid’s absence in Thursday’s game. In fact, Boban Marjanovic out-scored Hassan Whiteside 16-0 in the first half. Whiteside had a couple moments of energy in the third quarter, but was mostly a nonentity. Bam Adebayo played through foul trouble, forcing Erik Spoelstra to use Kelly Olynyk at the five. That’s too bad, because Adebayo made this great fake-handoff for a dunk.

The Heat surrendered too many open lanes to the basket for players like Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler. Simmons also took Justise Winslow to school in the post, constantly getting his way against the Heat point guard.

Jones played 16 minutes in his first game since Jan. 27, scoring nine points off the bench. James Johnson was limited to just seven first-half minutes after suffering a shoulder injury, so Jones’ contributions were much needed. And although Goran Dragic made the trip to Philadelphia, he was not active for the game.

Wade led Miami with 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field. His passing was his biggest strength Thursday night, making back-to-back feeds to Kelly Olynyk and Jones for fourth-quarter dunks. But Wade’s jump-shooting recalled some of his performance in Game 2 of the Heat’s first-round playoff series against the Sixers last year. He even made a much-needed jumper with three minutes left in the game right after checking in.

Dion Waiters was right behind Wade in the scoring department, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field. Waiters’ hesitation dribble and explosion to the basket destabilized the Sixers defense on several occasions. It’s sometimes surprising to know that Miami’s offense lacked that dimension from Waiters for an entire calendar year before he returned in January.

The problem for Waiters, and the rest of the Heat? It was the 3-point shooting. Waiters was 2-of-7 from beyond the arc, no miss bigger than his failed attempt to respond to Redick in the final moments of the game. But Josh Richardson was 1-for-7 from 3 (although the one he made was a big one, pulling the Heat to within one in the fourth). Even Wade air-balled his only attempt from downtown.

It should be noted, though, that Philadelphia also struggled from beyond the arc. The Sixers shot 7-of-26 from downtown, while the Heat were 6-of-23.

Miami will return home to face the Detroit Pistons Saturday at 7:30.