Heat falls to 76ers to set up must-win game vs. Bulls. Takeaways and info on Butler’s injury

Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 105-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center as part of the NBA’s play-in tournament. The Heat now faces a win-or-go-home play-in game on Friday at 7 p.m. in Miami against the Chicago Bulls:

Inefficient offense and injuries have hurt the Heat all season. Those issues hurt the Heat again in a very important game on Wednesday.

“These types of games you just treasure the opportunity to compete in these types of games,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, it’s all of the emotions when you come up short.”

The Heat closed the loss with 104 points on 42.2 percent shooting from the field and 14-of-39 (35.9 percent) shooting from three-point range.

The Heat scored just 111.8 points per 100 possessions on Wednesday for an offensive rating that would have ranked 24th among teams this regular season. Miami fell to 13-26 this season when posting an offensive rating under 112 points scored per 100 possessions.

Injuries also impacted the Heat on Wednesday. Miami entered without starting guard Terry Rozier because of a neck injury and three-point shooting forward Duncan Robinson also didn’t play as he recovers from a back issue.

Then Heat star Jimmy Butler hurt his right knee late in the first quarter. He finished the game to play 40 minutes on Wednesday, but was limited by the injury the rest of the way to finish with just 19 points on 5-of-18 shooting from the field.

Despite all of that, the Heat’ defense helped keep it in the game.

The Heat’s zone defense dominated the first half, throwing the 76ers’ offense completely out of whack.

With the Heat using its zone for most of the first half, the 76ers totaled just 39 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) shooting from three-point range while committing 12 turnovers in the first two quarters.

Behind that dominant defensive effort, the Heat led by as many as 14 points in the first half before entering halftime ahead 51-39.

But the 76ers finally started making shots and stopped committing turnovers in the third quarter to go on a 26-15 run, cutting a 13-point deficit to two. The 76ers totaled 30 points in the third quarter after scoring just 39 points in the first half.

The 76ers’ momentum carried over into the fourth quarter, beginning the final period on a 13-4 run to take a four-point lead over the Heat with 8:11 to play. It marked Philadelphia’s first lead since late in the first quarter.

Nicolas Batum played a big part in the 76ers’ rally, shooting 5 of 8 from three-point range in the second half to spark Philadelphia’s offense.

The Heat didn’t go away, though, pushing back to regain the lead and pull ahead by three points with 3:09 left in the fourth quarter.

The Heat and 76ers then went back and fourth the rest of the way.

The 76ers took a two-point lead on a Joel Embiid three-pointer with 2:33 to play.

Then the Heat pulled ahead by one point on a Tyler Herro three-pointer with 2:15 remaining.

A three-point and-one play by Embiid then gave the 76ers a two-point advantage with 1:47 left.

The Heat then tied the score at 96 on a Haywood Highsmith made shot with 1:30 to play.

But the 76ers then delivered the game-winning run.

It began on an and-one layup from Kelly Oubre Jr. off an assist from Embiid. Oubre made the free throw to complete the three-point play to give the 76ers a three-point lead with 36 seconds left.

On the Heat’s next possession — Miamis’ most important possession of the night — Herro’s three-point shot was blocked by Batum with 26.2 seconds remaining.

With the 76ers grabbing the defensive rebound after the block, the Heat was forced to foul 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey to preserve the clock. Maxey hit both free throws to extend the 76ers’ lead to five with 24.7 seconds to play.

The Heat kept fouling to prolong the game, but the 76ers shot a perfect 12 of 12 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to hold on for the comeback win.

“Everybody that played and everybody that was on the bench put everything into it, we just weren’t able to finish it off,” Spoelstra said.

Embiid closed the victory with 23 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the field, 2-of-4 shooting on threes and 9-of-10 shooting from the foul line, 15 rebounds and five assists for the 76ers.

Maxey added 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the field, 1-of-6 shooting on threes and 6-of-6 shooting from the foul line for the 76ers.

But with the 76ers’ leading duo of Embiid and Maxey combining to shoot an inefficient 12 of 33 from the field, it was Batum who stepped up to make some big shots for Philadelphia down the stretch.

Batum ended the night with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from three-point range off the 76ers’ bench.

Herro scored a team-high 25 points for the Heat, but shot just 9 of 27 from the field and 4 of 14 on threes. He scored 16 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter.

Adebayo finished with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and 12 rebounds for the Heat.

While Butler was able to finish the game despite tweaking his right knee late in Wednesday’s first quarter, the news after the game wasn’t encouraging.

After catching a full-court inbounds pass from Kevin Love, Butler threw a pump fake that got Oubre off his feet. But Oubre appeared to fall on Butler’s right leg as he came down.

With the officials calling a foul on Oubre for the play with 1.5 seconds left in the first quarter, Butler stayed down on the court for a few minutes while grabbing his right knee before limping back to the Heat’s bench.

The good news for the Heat is Butler went back on the court to shoot the two free throws and remained in the game.

The bad news for the Heat is Butler was clearly limited by the knee issue for the rest of the night, finishing with 19 points on 5-of-18 shooting from the field, four rebounds, five assists and five steals in 40 minutes

“He’s putting himself out there and I just really appreciate him for that competitive spirit,” Spoelstra said. “It really stiffened up on him in the second half.”

Butler, who put on a protective sleeve over his right knee as he was getting dressed in the Heat’s locker room following the game, said he will undergo an MRI on Thursday. He then limped out of the arena to fly back to Miami.

“I hope that I’m fine,” Butler said after Wednesday’s game ahead of Thursday’s MRI. “I hope that I wake up tomorrow and can still move. But right now, I can’t say that that’s the case.”

Whether Butler plays in Friday’s elimination game is now in doubt, considering he’ll have just one off day between games to rest his injured knee even if the MRI comes back clean.

While it technically wasn’t the playoffs, Wednesday’s play-in game offered a glimpse at what the Heat’s playoff rotation could be.

With Rozier (neck spasms) and Josh Richardson (shoulder surgery) the only two Heat players unavailable on Wednesday, Miami began the postseason by using the same starting lineup it ended the regular season with: Herro, Caleb Martin, Butler, Nikola Jovic and Adebayo. It marked the fifth straight game this lineup has started for the Heat.

The Heat used Love, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Haywood Highsmith and Delon Wright off the bench to complete its nine-man rotation.

Jaquez was a bright spot for the Heat, totaling 15 points, five rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes off the Heat’s bench.

Duncan Robinson was available for the Heat, but he did not play.

After missing the final four games of the regular season with a lingering back injury labeled as left facet syndrome, Robinson was in uniform and available for Wednesday’s play-in game.

But Robinson did not play, with the back still apparently an issue.

Robinson, who has started in each of his last 17 appearances, initially missed five games last month with the back issue before returning to play in five games and then again being sidelined by the injury for the final four games of the regular season.

The fact Robinson was in uniform and deemed available on Wednesday is encouraging, but the fact that he didn’t get into the game isn’t.

“Every day that he gets, he’s going to make progress and that’s really what it was,” Spoelstra said when asked about not playing Robinson on Wednesday. “We don’t have a whole lot of time for ramp up, so he hasn’t had those opportunities. But we’ll see how he feels when we get to Miami. I think each step, he’ll feel better and we’ll take it from there.”

The Heat will have one more opportunity to try to win its way into the playoffs.

As the East’s eighth-place team, the Heat entered the play-in tournament with two chances to win one game to earn a playoff spot.

As a result, the Heat faces a win-or-go-home game on Friday at 7 p.m. on ESPN against the Chicago Bulls at Kaseya Center. The Bulls defeated the Atlanta Hawks 131-116 in an elimination play-in game on Wednesday night to punch their ticket for Friday’s game in Miami.

The winner of Friday’s play-in game clinches the East’s No. 8 playoff seed and opens the playoffs with a first-round series against the top-seeded Boston Celtics, with Game 1 of that series set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at TD Garden. The loser of Friday’s play-in game between the Heat and Bulls is eliminated and misses the playoffs entirely.

“We will do this the hard way,” Spoelstra said. “That just has to be the path right now.”

The Heat also played the Bulls in this same exact situation during last season’s play-in tournament. The Heat won that game 102-91 to enter the playoffs as the East’s No. 8 seed before going on an improbable run to the NBA Finals.

The last time the Heat missed the playoffs was in the 2018-19 season.

Meanwhile, the 76ers clinched the East’s No. 7 playoff seed and a first-round series against the second-seeded New York Knicks with Wednesday’s win.