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Kyle Lowry, 76ers drop Heat to No. 8 in East with 98-91 decision, as Jimmy Butler sits

PHILADELPHIA — This could have been a read on where a pair of playoff contenders stand a month out from when the games will count the most.

It wasn’t anything close.

Not with Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic, Kevin Love among those out for the Miami Heat. And not with Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and other contributors out for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Instead, it was something closer to mid-March desperation to avoid the play-in round.

A night after a dramatic last-second victory in Detroit, the ante was raised for the Heat in a game with significant tiebreaker implications.

This time, there simply wasn’t enough from Erik Spoelstra’s team, with the Heat not only falling 98-91 Monday night to the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, but falling to No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, a spot that comes with a road game in the round required simply to make the playoffs.

“Our guys really wanted to get this game,” Spoelstra said. “We just weren’t able to get it done.

“It’s disappointing but it’s not from an effort standpoint.”

While Bam Adebayo did his part a night after hitting the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Detroit, his 20 points, 13 rebounds and six assists weren’t enough, as the Heat lost for the fifth time in their past seven games.

“We struggled to score,” Spoelstra said. “We did have some looks. At that point it becomes make or miss.”

On a night the Heat only could muster 16 third-quarter points, the support simply wasn’t there, beyond 20 points from Terry Rozier, as Butler looked on from the bench.

Remarkably, Adebayo did not have a shot attempt in the fourth quarter.

“They were packing the paint like crazy,” Spoelstra said, “almost daring us to shoot from the 3-point line.”

Tyrese Maxey led the 76ers with 30 points, with Philadelphia also getting 22 points from Kelly Oubre Jr. and 16 from former Heat guard Kyle Lowry.

The Heat could have moved to a 3-0 lead in the season series. Instead, the playoff tiebreaker could be in the balance when the teams meet April 4 in Miami, with Embiid possibly back for that matchup.

Five Degrees of Heat from Monday night’s game:

1. Closing time: The 76ers led 31-23 at the end of the opening period and 51-49 at halftime.

The 76ers then used a 13-0 run in the third period to move ahead 68-51, on the way to a 79-65 lead entering the fourth. The Heat scored 16 points in the third, shooting 5 of 21 in the period.

Sparked by a 3-pointer from backup center Thomas Bryant, guard Patty Mills and Rozier, the Heat eventually tied it 85-85 with 6:54 to play.

Then, with 3:09 to play, Lowry stepped up with a 3-pointer for a 91-87 Philadelphia lead, with a driving layup by Lowry with 1:36 left putting Philadelphia up 95-89.

From there, with a pair of errant attempts by Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., it was over.

“That game was there to take, either way,” Spoelstra said. “I thought we had enough defense and stops going down the stretch to put ourselves in a better position to win this game, but our offense was pretty uneven in the second half.”

2. Corner three: After converting 3-pointers from the top of the circle in each of the previous three games, including the buzzer-beating game-winner on Sunday in Detroit, Adebayo this time drained a 3-pointer from the right corner in the first period to extend his streak to four games with a conversion.

Then, in the third quarter, he converted his second 3-point attempt of the game from the top of the arc.

Adebayo entered this, his seventh season, without converting in consecutive games. He now has six 3-pointers this season. His previous single-season high was three.

The first-quarter conversion was Adebayo’s first attempt from a corner this season.

Ultimately, Adebayo was turned into a non-factor late.

“We just got stagnant,” he said, “and the ball wasn’t moving.”

3. Robinson limited: A day after shooting 7 of 12 on 3-pointers and becoming the fastest NBA player to 1,000 career 3-pointers, Robinson was lost for the night in the third quarter with back discomfort.

Prior to being sidelined, Robinson was chased off the 3-point line by the 76ers. He closed 1 of 5 from the field, missing his lone 3-point attempt, on what stood as a three-point night a day after he scored 30 in Detroit.

Spoelstra said Robinson entered the game ailing.

“He couldn’t move coming into the game, just the workload, everything last night, the flight, whatever, he just couldn’t move,” Spoelstra said.

Robinson said it eventually became too much.

“Ultimately,” he said, “I was a detriment out there.”

4. Rozier vs. Lowry: The game was the first with Lowry as an opponent after the former Heat guard was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in January for Rozier and later took a buyout to sign with his hometown 76ers.

Lowry exchanged a pregame hug with Butler at the scorers’ table and then took the initial defensive assignment against Duncan Robinson.

Lowry’s first points came on a 3-pointer against the Heat’s zone, later converting a 3-point play in transition in the second period.

Along the way, Lowry twice used his guile to draw fouls on Robinson, who both times recognized he had taken Lowry’s bait.

5. Maxey sizzles early: Maxey, taken at No. 21 by the 76ers in the 2020 NBA draft, one pick after the Heat took Precious Achiuwa, had 17 points in the first quarter on 6-of-9 shooting, including 2 of 3 on 3-pointers.

The Heat defended Maxey initially with Haywood Highsmith and then shifted Caleb Martin onto the assignment, also mixing in zone defense.

“They made big shots at big times,” Martin said.