May 21, 2024


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NBA matchup: 76ers overcome sluggish first half, cruise past Heat to set up first-round matchup with Knicks

NBA matchup: 76ers overcome sluggish first half, cruise past Heat to set up first-round matchup with Knicks

For half the day Wednesday, Miami's zone defense troubled the 76ers and drew boos from the Philadelphia crowd.

Then a hot round of 3 and a free chicken promotion thrilled the 76ers and their fans as Philadelphia rallied from a 14-point deficit to win 105-104 over the Heat in the NBA championship game.

With the win, the 76ers advance as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs to face the No. 2 seed New York Knicks in the first round. The loss puts the Heat in Friday's playoff game against the Chicago Bulls, who beat the Atlanta Hawks in the championship play-in game. The winner will receive the No. 8 seed. The loser's season will end.

The Heat could come up short in that game. For all the athlete Shams Charania, Jimmy Butler is feared to have suffered an MCL injury In the first half of Wednesday's game. An MRI will be performed to determine the nature of the injury, according to the report. Butler apparently injured his knee in the process A decline in the first quarter. He limped up and played the rest of the game. He limped gingerly into the Wells Fargo Center tunnel after the game.

The Heat take control of the first half

Philadelphia went through a sluggish first half dominated by Miami on its way to a 51-39 halftime lead. The 76ers couldn't work through or above the heat zone as they shot 32.6% from the field and 3-of-18 (16.7%) from 3.

Philadelphia's 11th turnover of the half allowed Miami to take a 37-26 lead, drawing boos from the home fans. A 9-0 Heat run capped by a Tyler Herro 3 gave Miami a 51-37 lead and drew more boos from Philadelphia fans. The 76ers looked ready.

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76ers, fans come alive after halftime

But fans woke up midway through the quarter when Miami's Caleb Martin missed two free throws, leading to a free chicken promotion.

When the 76ers responded with a 5-0 run to cut Miami's lead to 59-53, fans were in a frenzy. Nicolas Batum led a 3-point barrage that held the 76ers going 5 of 9 from long range in the third quarter as the 76ers cut their deficit to 74-69. Batum's fifth third down early in the fourth period gave the 76ers a 79-76 lead, their first since the first quarter.

From there, the game was a back-and-forth contest that saw Philadelphia pull away in the final minute. The 76ers hit their free throws down the stretch as Miami tried to extend the game while trailing in the final seconds.

Embiid is struggling, still leading the 76ers

Joel Embiid scored 11 goals in the fourth period after struggling for most of the match. After sitting out the season finale to rest a knee injury that cost him 29 regular-season games, he looked far from his best against Miami while shooting 6-of-17 from the field. He scored 23 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and five assists. Batum hit six 3-pointers off the bench for 20 points and five rebounds.

After turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, the 76ers finished the game with 15 turnovers. They shot 9-of-17 from 3 in the second half after their disastrous first-half effort to finish 12-of-35 (34.3%) from long range for the game.

Jimmy Butler led Miami's defensive attack in the first half, scoring 19 points, five assists, four rebounds and five steals. His steals repeatedly led to easy buckets on the other end for the Heat. Tyler Herro overcame a bad night shooting (9 of 27) to lead the Heat with 25 points and nine assists. Bam Adebayo scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Embiid.

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But the Heat fell short in the end when their defense failed to slow down Philadelphia's 3-point shooting in the second half.

How will the 76ers fare against the Knicks?

The win set up an exciting first-round playoff game between Philadelphia and New York. After falling out of the playoffs with their MVP candidate sidelined, the 76ers are now safe in the playoffs with Embiid back in the lineup. If he was anywhere near full strength in Game 1 and beyond, the 76ers wouldn't be a regular No. 7 seed.

Meanwhile, the Knicks won't be playing at full strength. All-Star Julius Randle will miss the season with a shoulder injury. But OG Anunoby is back after missing 27 games in the second half of the season with an elbow injury. He played the final six games of the regular season.

Game 1 between the Knicks and 76ers is scheduled for 6 PM ET on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.