What we learned from 76ers’ comeback Play-In win over Miami Heat

EditorLast Update :
What we learned from 76ers’ comeback Play-In win over Miami Heat

By Mike Vorkunov, Eric Koreen and Tobias Bass

A tale of two halves and excellent bench play earned the Philadelphia 76ers the No. 7 seed as they held on to beat the Miami Heat 105-104 in their Play-In matchup Wednesday, setting themselves up to face the New York Knicks on Saturday.

With the loss, the Heat will play either the Chicago Bulls or Atlanta Hawks in a win-or-go-home matchup on Friday for the final NBA playoff spot.

Nicolas Batum had a monster game off the bench with a season-high 20 points and five rebounds. Joel Embiid led all scorers with 23 points on 6-of-17 shooting along with 15 rebounds and five assists.

The 76ers went into halftime down 51-39 and were constantly booed by the Philly faithful as they had 12 first-half turnovers with Miami scoring 17 points off of them. Their struggles were predicated on Miami’s zone defense, as eight of Philly’s 12 turnovers came against the zone.

To start the second half, Philadelphia began to press up more defensively and relied on their bench, and Miami had very few answers. They kept the game close with heroics from Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, but the 76er’s momentum was too much to overcome. Philly’s bench scored 36 points and Batum made a pivotal block on Herro late in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

What this win means for Philadephia

The Sixers didn’t just win their Play-In Tournament game, they won the one that matters. This puts them into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, which is huge because it lets them avoid the Celtics in the first round. The Knicks will be a tough matchup, no doubt, but they’re not the Celtics, who were the unquestioned regular-season juggernauts. They get to take the train to New York and back for the next two weeks or so in what might be a coin-flip first-round matchup.

This was a great comeback for the Sixers. They figured out the Heat in real time. Nothing encapsulated that like Embiid, who struggled early and then took over late. His clutch buckets and huge assist to Kelly Oubre Jr. late in the fourth quarter helped seal the win. — Mike Vorkunov, NBA and basketball business staff writer

Can Miami put together another Cinderella run?

The Heat had the 28th-ranked clutch offense in the league this year, a major warning sign about the team’s ability to execute throughout a slow-paced playoff game. Miami built a 12-point lead on the strength of a tricky zone defense that flummoxed the 76ers and created easy chances in transition. Once Philadelphia adapted, Miami just couldn’t generate enough scoring. Other than Herro, Miami had next to no offensive creation, and that allowed Philadelphia to inch past them at the end.

The Heat will get the winner of tonight’s game between the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night in Miami, with the winner moving on to play the Boston Celtics in the first round. However, Jimmy Butler appeared to hurt himself at the end of the first quarter when Oubre fouled him in transition, and Terry Rozier, the quick guard acquired in January for Kyle Lowry, has missed five consecutive games with a neck injury. Butler hardly moved during some late Miami possessions, shooting 5-for-18 for the night. If Butler is compromised and Rozier is unavailable, the Heat are going to need a little magic to get into the playoffs. — Eric Koreen, Raptors staff writer

Required reading

(Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant / Getty Images)