Sixers beat Heat, bulls down Hawks

Agence France-Presse
Sixers beat Heat, bulls down Hawks
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers battles the defense of Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat during their Eastern Conference Play-In face-off at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
STAR / File

LOS ANGELES – The Philadelphia 76ers, fueled by 23 points from NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid, rallied to beat the Miami Heat 105-104 on Wednesday and book a first-round playoff clash with the New York Knicks.

Embiid, still struggling for peak form after missing two months following knee surgery, stepped it up in the second half for the Sixers, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the third quarter in the NBA Play-in tournament clash.

Miami, who emerged from the play-in to reach the NBA Finals last year, can still make the playoffs.

On Friday they play a must-win game against the Chicago Bulls, who stampeded the Atlanta Hawks 131-116 to stay alive.

In Philadelphia, Embiid scored 13 points in the second half, drilling a go-ahead three-pointer with 2:33 left to play.

The lead would change hands twice before Embiid found Kelly Oubre Jr. in the lane for a basket and a free throw that put Philadelphia ahead for good with 36 seconds remaining.

Sixers reserve Nicolas Batum scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half and came up with a big block on Tyler Herro with 26.2 seconds left, the 76ers draining a series of free throws to seal the win.

Batum made six of the 76ers’ 12 three-pointers, and 76ers coach Nick Nurse credited his long-range shooting with helping Philadelphia break through against the Miami zone defense that frustrated them in the first half.

“He knew we needed some offense, needed to crack that zone with some perimeter shooting,” Nurse said. “He found some areas to get to and he just kept pulling the trigger.”

Teammate Tyrese Maxey called Batum “the star of the night,” but Embiid will be key to the 76ers’ fortunes against the second-seeded Knicks.

Their series starts on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

“I thought he competed,” Nurse said of Embiid. “He competed late especially. I think it’s a good one to get under his belt ... with a lot of intensity and a lot of minutes.”

The Heat will be keeping an eye on star Jimmy Butler, who was rocked by a collision under the basket with Oubre, who fell on Butler’s right leg late in the first quarter.

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