The Sixers Beat The Heat To Earn A Playoff Berth And A Matchup With The Knicks

The Philadelphia 76ers are heading to the NBA playoffs. While it wasn’t the prettiest win in franchise history, Philadelphia played host to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night and overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half to pick up a 105-104 win in the 7-8 game of the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament. Now, the Sixers will enter the postseason as the 7-seed, while the Heat still need to get their future all sorted out.

The story of the first half was Philly’s inability to figure out Miami’s zone. The Heat decided to play a 2-3 that totally flummoxed the Sixers, even as Bam Adebayo only played 12 first half minutes due to early foul trouble and Jimmy Butler dealt with a knee injury.

For whatever reason, Philly just had zero answer for this wrinkle. They went into the locker room down 51-39, and shot 14-for-42 (33.3 percent) from the field and 3-for-18 (16.7 percent) from three, all while turning the ball over 11 times. While Miami’s offense wasn’t especially great either — 18-for-42 (42.9 percent) from the field and 6-for-20 (30 percent) from three — any time they were able to set up their defense, Philly found itself helpless.

And then, midway through the third quarter, the Sixers showed some life because of some chicken. In the immediate aftermath of Caleb Martin missing back-to-back free throws to give the fans free food, Philly ripped off an 8-0 run to go from down by double-digits to back within three.

For the rest of the frame and into the start of the fourth, Miami always seemed to have an answer — a big make to extend their lead to two possessions, a timely stop, etc. — that kept Philly from taking the lead. Even when the Sixers eventually tied it up, they just could not get over the hump.

But with just under nine minutes left in the fourth, the breakthrough came when Joel Embiid found Nic Batum — who was nothing short of brilliant on both ends of the floor — out on the wing for a wide open triple.

In classic Heat fashion, though, they refused to go away. A Jaime Jaquez dunk with about five and a half minutes to go put them back ahead, and the Sixers once again struggled to wrest the lead away from them. Even when Embiid hit a three to put Philly ahead, Tyler Herro came back down and knocked down a triple of his own.

Things were tied entering the game’s final minute, when the Sixers were able to force a backcourt violation due to Batum’s pressure on Herro. And on the ensuing possession, Philadelphia went ahead with 36 seconds remaining when Embiid found Kelly Oubre for a layup, a foul, and an and-one.

Miami came back down and went for the tie, getting the ball into the hands of Herro and giving him a green light to pull up. But once again, Batum came up big, as he caught up to the Heat guard and blocked his attempt from deep.

Despite Miami’s best efforts, the team just ran out of time, and Philly was able to defend its homecourt. Embiid’s 23-point, 15-rebound, 5-assist night led the way, while Batum’s performance off the bench made headline, as the veteran swingman had 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting from three and five boards off the bench. For Miami, Herro led the team 25 points and nine assists.

The win means that Philadelphia secured the 7-seed in the Western Conference, which means they’re headed to Madison Square Garden to take on the 2-seed New York Knicks. Game 1 of their series is slated to tip at 6 p.m. EST on Saturday afternoon. Miami, meanwhile, will play either Atlanta or Chicago in the final Play-In Tournament game with the hopes of earning the 8-seed and a matchup with the Boston Celtics.