The Miami Heat dealt the final blow to the Philadelphia 76ers in a game six victory. The win secures another conference finals birth for the Heat, their second in the last three years.
Miami Heat Earn Conference Finals Bid With Win Over 76ers
The Heat Turn it up in Games One and Two
Early in the series, this matchup looked like a foregone conclusion. Joel Embiid was recovering from a concussion on top of an orbital fracture threatening to keep him out of the playoffs. Miami would capitalize on homecourt advantage despite injuries of their own. Kyle Lowry was unavailable for the first two games, but the Heat’s backcourt depth helped them make easy work of Philadelphia. Both games one and two were relatively easy wins for Miami, taking each game with double-digit margins of victory.
The Hero Returns
Suddenly before game three, Embiid was cleared to play. Some wondered if this would be a Willis Reed moment for the 76ers, hoping that the effort would propel Philadelphia to victory. 76ers fans got that moment and then some. Embiid was terrific considering his head injuries paired with the thumb, which will require surgery in the offseason. The center dropped a double-double on the way to a 20-point drubbing of Miami.
James Harden stepped up in a big way in game four. He scored a team-high 31 points as Philadelphia outlasted the Heat 116-108. Embiid was again fantastic in this one, scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey continued his impressive postseason run, adding 18 points to the effort.
Back to Reality
Game five saw the series return to South Beach. The home cooking was especially good on this night. All five Miami starters scored in double figures, as did Herro and Victor Oladipo off the bench. For Philadelphia, it was a poor shooting night all around. Harden, Maxey, and Tobias Harris all struggled mightily from the floor. The Heat cruised to a 35-point win in a game that truly exposed the 76ers inability to keep the pace.
By game six, it was apparent that Philadelphia was outmatched. Although Lowry was again out for the Heat, it was the 76ers that looked exhausted on the court. Doc Rivers’ short rotation backfired late in the series as Philadelphia’s key players lacked the energy needed to make a run when needed. An unfortunate knee injury to Danny Green made that rotation even shorter. In the second half of game six, it seemed that the 76ers lacked the energy and effort to produce a simple box out. The home team was embarrassingly outworked in a win-or-go-home situation. The Heat’s defense was stifling, leading to fast break buckets and forcing the 76ers to a series-low 15 points in the third quarter.
Philadelphia will have some questions to answer this offseason. Harden was underwhelming and the team’s lack of depth in the frontcourt is an issue. Maxey and Shake Milton both have bright futures in the league, but additional moves may be needed to cash in on Embiid’s prime.
For Miami, a few days of rest are in order. They await the winner of the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks series in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat will hope that the extra rest will bring good news for Lowry, but they have shown that they are ready for whatever challenge the next series brings.
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