The Miami Heat are one win away from a berth in the Eastern Conference finals after dominating the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night in South Beach to take a 3-2 series lead. The Heat benefitted from balanced scoring all night long as six players finished the 120-85 win in double figures, led by Jimmy Butler’s 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Philadelphia fell behind by double digits in the first quarter and never really made a charge after that. In the end, Miami took over in the fourth quarter and really opened things up leading to the Sixers emptying their bench with just over eight minutes remaining in regulation. Obviously, that is not the type of outcome Doc Rivers and his roster were hoping for coming into the night.
Miami will try to clinch the series with a win in Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
Embiid has a painful night
Just a few minutes into the game, Joel Embiid chased down a loose ball and went flying into the crowd along the baseline. He managed to save the ball, but it probably wasn’t worth it as he took a blow to the back in the process. Though he remained in the game, he was clutching at his back and doubled over heading to the bench.
As it turned out, that was only the beginning of a painful night for the big man. Later in the first half, he was going for a rebound and had secured the ball above his head. Heat center Dewayne Dedmon swiped at the ball and made contact with it, which forced the ball back into Embiid’s face. The accidental clash aggravated Embiid’s broken orbital bone, and he collapsed to the floor in agony.
Once again, he showed tremendous toughness to remain in the game, but this wasn’t his night. He ended up with 17 points and five rebounds on 7-for-12 shooting, which are decent numbers but not the ones you would expect from an MVP candidate — even an injured one. With Embiid playing well below his usual level, the Sixers had no chance. Unless he can somehow summon a huge response in Game 6, the Sixers are likely done.
Heat one game away from another ECF
In some ways, this season has not gone to plan for the Heat. They’ve been banged up all season long — Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry missed a combined 72 games — and are still dealing with injuries to key players. Meanwhile, they re-signed Duncan Robinson to a five-year, $90 million contract in the offseason and he barely even plays anymore.
And yet, here they are in the middle of May just one game away from a trip to the Eastern Conference finals. They built this team with the expectation of contending for a title, and barring some sort of collapse over the next few days are going to be one of the four final teams. You can point to a fairly easy path in the playoffs, and that’s true, but a conference finals appearance is a conference finals appearance; it doesn’t matter how you get there.
Assuming the Heat take care of the Sixers, they will be in the ECF for the second time in the last three seasons, and the sixth time in the last 11 years. Pretty impressive run.