The Miami Heat are one win off a pier in the Eastern Conference Finals after dominating the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night in South Beach to advance 3-2. The Heat benefited from a balanced scoring overnight as six players finished in a 120-85 double-digit win, led by Jimmy Butler with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Philadelphia fell by double digits in the first quarter and didn’t direct any shipment after that. In the end, Miami took the reins in the fourth quarter and really opened things up leaving the Sixers off the bench with just over eight minutes left in regulation. This is clearly not the kind of outcome that Doc Rivers and his crew were hoping to come up with into the night.
Miami will attempt to seal the series with a win in Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center Thursday night.
Here are three main points from the game:
1. Heat finds their attack again
After a 2-0 lead at home, the Heat lost their way to Philadelphia. They couldn’t shoot the ball – especially from the 3-point ground where they went 14 to 65 in games 3 and 4 – and had two of the three least efficient offensive games in the entire playoffs. As a result, they came home and drew 2-2, and suddenly they were in the top three.
Those matches were surprising right now, and they look even weirder now after match five. Whatever the case, the Heat on the road wasn’t a problem on Tuesday night as they came home and put in a dominant performance on both sides of the ball. However, finding them insulted again was the most encouraging aspect.
It took less than seven minutes for them to build a double-digit lead, and they would maintain that supremacy for the majority of the match. Every time you looked at them, they would pour into another bucket. The Heat fired 53.6 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from 3 points from the ground. Seven different players hit a triple pointer and seven different players scored in double numbers, rolling the Sixers inside and out.
Jimmy Butler continued from where he left off in Game Four, and finished the match with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Max Strauss added 19 points and 10 rebounds. Admittedly, The Sixers were lifeless at times, but this was still an excellent performance from Heat.
2. Embiid has a painful night
Just a few minutes into the match, Joel Embiid chased after a loose ball and directed the center of the crowd along the baseline. He managed to save the ball, but it probably wasn’t worth it as he took a hit in the back in the process. Despite staying in the match, he grabbed his back and doubled down on heading to the bench.
As it turns out, that was just the beginning of a painful night for the big guy. Later in the first half, he was looking to bounce back and put the ball over his head. Heat center DeWayne Deadmon passed the ball and made contact with it, sending the ball back into Embiid’s face. The accidental collision exacerbated Embiid’s broken orbital bone, and he fell to the ground in pain.
Once again, he showed tremendous toughness to stay in the game, but this wasn’t his night. He ended up with 17 points and five rebounds in a 7-for-12 shootout, which are good numbers but not the numbers you’d expect from a MVP candidate – even the injured one. With Embiid playing well below his usual level, the Sixers had no chance. Unless he somehow manages to summon a massive response in Game 6, the Sixers will likely be over.
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3. One match away from another ECF
In some ways, this season was not planned for the Heat season. They’ve suffered blows all season – Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry have lost 72 games total – and are still dealing with injuries to key players. Meanwhile, they re-sign Duncan Robinson’s five-year, $90 million off-season contract and he’s not playing anymore.
However, here they are in mid-May just one game away from a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. They built this team with the expectation of title contention, and bar some sort of collapse over the next few days that would be one of the final four teams. You can point to a fairly easy path in the playoffs, and that’s true, but the advent of the conference finals is the advent of the conference finals; It doesn’t matter how you get there.
Assuming The Heat takes care of the Sixers, they’ll be in ECF for the second time in the past three seasons, and the sixth time in the last 11 years. Impressive run.
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