Both the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers came into Thursday night’s game with something to play for. Locked in a battle with Atlanta and New York for playoff positioning, the Heat needed a win to avoid dropping to sixth place. And the Sixers could have clinched the top seed in the East with a win.
The Heat dominated from the jump.
Miami raced out to a quick 38-22 lead after the first quarter after Jimmy Butler made three 3-pointers in the first quarter. Trevor Ariza and Joel Embiid had a heated exchange that led to double technicals. Late in the period, Udonis Haslem checked into the game for his first appearance all season. He drew a standing ovation and promptly grabbed a rebound and ran the floor for a nice layup.
basketball player playing basketball we here! pic.twitter.com/JK4W3y1A4n— Nuh-KY-us Duncan (@NekiasNBA) May 14, 2021
Haslem also drew a charge and hit one of his patented baseline jumpers. But early in the second, the Heat legend took exception to Dwight Howard pulling him down. The referees ejected Haslem for the altercation — yet another memorable moment in his long career with Miami.
The Haslem ejection made Pat Riley sooooo happy pic.twitter.com/7FovKTTuU4— Brendan Tobin (@Brendan_Tobin) May 14, 2021
The Heat continued to dominate the Sixers, with Tyler Herro scoring 14 points in the first half. Herro has played well these last few games, and Miami will need that in the playoffs. Miami took a 60-41 lead into the half.
And in a surprise, the Sixers made no sustained run to get back in the game. Bam Adebayo made several jumpers early in the third to keep Philadelphia at bay. Joel Embiid finished with just six points on 3-of-9 shooting, while Adebayo went 9 of 13 from the field to finish with 18 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. The Heat carried a 22-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Miami’s lead was never threatened; Doc Rivers didn’t bother to insert Ben Simmons or Embiid back into the game for the fourth quarter. The final score isn’t indicative of how this game went. It was a statement from Miami that if these two teams meet in the second round, the Heat will come to play. The Heat committed some sloppy turnovers and could’ve built an even bigger lead, but any Miami fan has to be elated with this performance.
Butler led Miami with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. In a bit of the inverse of what one would expect about Butler, he missed a few shots at the rim but was a perfect 4-for-4 from downtown. The five-time All-Star also grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists.
The Heat also managed to survive an off night from Duncan Robinson, who shot just 1-of-7 from 3-point range despite many open looks. Kendrick Nunn scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, Goran Dragic chipped in 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting and six assists, and Herro knocked down four 3s.
With this win, the Heat kept their place on the fifth seed. (The Knicks defeated the San Antonio Spurs tonight, but Miami holds the tie-breaker.) Miami will next visit the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday at 8 p.m.