NBA play-in

Playoff ready: Embiid, 76ers hold off Heat, advance to face Knicks 


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Playoff ready: Embiid, 76ers hold off Heat, advance to face Knicks 

TOP GUNS. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (left) hugs Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler on the court after a 76ers victory in a play-in game.

Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Reigning MVP Joel Embiid and the Sixers slip past the Heat in the play-in to arrange a first-round playoff duel against the No. 2 Knicks

Joel Embiid collected 23 points and 15 rebounds, and Nicolas Batum drained six three-pointers to lift the host Philadelphia 76ers to a 105-104 victory over the Miami Heat in an NBA play-in game on Wednesday, April 17 (Thursday, April 18, Manila time).

Batum finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor, and Tyrese Maxey added 19 points. Kelly Oubre Jr. recorded 11 points and 8 rebounds, and Tobias Harris added 9 points and 10 boards.

“We needed somebody to hit some shots in the zone,” Maxey said. “[Batum] hit some big shots. Buddy Hield hit a big shot. Cam Payne hit a big shot. Paul Reed played really well. Everybody who played out there [left their] imprint on the game.”

The seventh-seeded 76ers outscored Miami 66-53 in the second half to set up an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the second-seeded New York Knicks. 

Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday, April 20, in New York.

“I think they’re for real,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said of the Knicks. “I think they’re really good. They’ve earned that seed. We’ll have our work to do… It’s going to be a physical series for sure.”

Miami’s Tyler Herro contributed 25 points and 9 assists, and Jimmy Butler had 19 points, 5 assists, and 5 steals.

Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 15 points off the bench for the Heat, who will look to capture the eighth seed on Friday when they host the winner of Wednesday’s game between the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls.

“We’re going to bring a helluva game on Friday night… and we will do this the hard way,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s just the way the deal is right now.”

Haywood Highsmith sank a floater to tie the score at 96-96 with 1:30 left. Oubre connected on a driving layup with 36 seconds left and made the ensuing foul shot to complete the three-point play.

Batum blocked Herro’s three-pointer and Maxey made a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 101-96. Highsmith and Jaquez scored from in close to trim Miami’s deficit. 

Oubre and Maxey each sank a pair of free throws to create enough distance to overcome Herro’s free throw and three-pointer in the waning moments.

Philadelphia overcame a 14-point deficit in the first half and seized a 79-76 lead after Batum sank his fifth three-pointer with 8:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Batum added his sixth just 47 seconds later and reigning MVP Embiid converted from beyond the arc to stake the 76ers to a 93-91 lead with 2:33 left.

Butler appeared to injure his right knee after a collision with Oubre with 1.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Butler, however, stayed in the game and recorded his fourth steal to set up Highsmith’s driving layup to give the Heat a 37-26 lead.

“As the second half went on, it started to limit him a little more,” Spoelstra said of Butler’s injury. –

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