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Heat finish strong to hold off 76ers in 99-82 home win

Miami held Philadelphia to 14 points in each of the first and fourth quarters.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

In the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat took another huge step forward in beating the visiting Philadelphia 76ers 99-82 at the FTX Arena on Saturday night.

Both Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro scored 21 points to lead the Heat. Herro became the first Heat reserve in franchise history to score 20 or more points in six consecutive games while Butler scored all of his points in the first three quarters.

Gabe Vincent had another strong game in Kyle Lowry’s absence to score 16 points and Caleb Martin had 14 points off the bench.

The Heat’s defense held the 76ers, who sat out newly acquired James Harden due to hamstring soreness, to just 14 points in both the first and fourth quarters and hold them to a season low in points and just 34% FG shooting, but once allowed a big lead to evaporate in the second half.

In tonight’s case, Miami had a 20-point lead but allowed Philadelphia to get back into the game by committing seven turnovers in the third quarter and a stagnant offense that couldn’t crack a zone defense. They ended up holding on to a slim 73-68 lead entering the final quarter but their defense was the key down the stretch for their 11th win in their last 13 games.

The win over the second seed 76ers gives them a three game lead at the top of the East, their largest margin of the season. Philadelphia had their five-game win streak snapped as they rested Harden on the second night of a back-to-back set, while the NBA’s leading scorer Joel Embiid battled Bam Adebayo (who had his moments defensively but was otherwise strangely quiet in a six-point, 10 rebound performance) but never found any rhythm offensively on 4-15 shooting and still finished with 22 points by going 14-14 from the free throw line to go along with 15 rebounds.

Miami used a late 10-0 run highlighted by three-pointers from Max Strus and Martin as well as a stellar Adebayo play to get the offensive rebound amid traffic and score to pad a single-digit lead into a 97-80 score with less than two minutes left to put the game away.

They end a tough stretch of games against their top East rivals by going 3-1 and can now look forward to another six games in a row to be played at the FTX Arena. Monday’s game against the Houston Rockets could also feature the season debut of Victor Oladipo.