Philadelphia is back in dangerous territory in the post-season after another sad defeat, and this time around they can’t blame Ben Simmons.
On Thursday, seeded Miami Heat overpowered weak Philadelphia 76ers 119-103 to take the 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference playoff series.
Bam Adebayo scored 23 points and pulled down nine rebounds and Jimmy Butler added 22 and 12 assists as the heat once again proved too much for a team of Sixers missing from star center Joel Embiid, who suffered a concussion and a orbital fracture in Philadelphia’s decisive victory over the Toronto Raptors.
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Tyrese Maxey set a record 34 points for Philadelphia, Tobias Harris added 21 and James Harden had 20.
But three-time scoring champion Harden was held down by just four points in the second half as the Heat, who had been briefly behind in the first quarter but were leading 60-52 at half-time, achieved victory.
Tyler Herro, the league’s sixth man of the year, scored 16 of his 18 first-half points off the bench and made three of his five three-point attempts for Miami.
Victor Oladipo went off the bench to score 19 points and was an even more efficient three-out-of-four from beyond the arc while the Heat scored 14 three-pointers.
The Sixers, meanwhile, struggled from three points, connecting in only eight of their 30 attempts.
Miami point guard Kyle Lowry missed the fourth straight game with a left hamstring strain, but Butler said the depth of heat and injuries they faced throughout the season meant many players were ready to step forward.
“When the guys are in and out of training all year and the guys fill up, it’s like no one is gone,” he said. “They are so comfortable, so sure of themselves, they know they belong to this championship.
“This is the brightest light, the biggest stage, and they are ready for it.”
But Butler knows the real test will come when the Heat travel to Philadelphia for games three and four starting Saturday.
“It’s going to be crazy,” he said. “They have some of the best fans in the league, but we have a job to do.
“We did what we had to do at home. The series really starts when you put it on the road. “
The Sixers will need more than fan support in Philadelphia, but it’s unclear when Embiid might return. He must complete the incremental concussion protocol, gradually increasing physical activity and training, to be allowed to play.
“He has so many steps to take,” said Sixers coach Doc Rivers. “I don’t think he has cleaned any of them right now. So we just have to wait and see. “
Originally published as The Philadelphia 76ers implode again in the NBA playoffs