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NBA play-in: 76ers overcome sluggish 1st half, rally past Heat to set up first-round matchup with Knicks

During halftime Wednesday, Miami’s zone defense troubled the 76ers and drew boos from the Philadelphia crowd.

Then, a hot 3 run and a free chicken promo fired up the 76ers and their fans as Philadelphia rallied from a 14-point deficit to a 105-104 victory over the Heat in the NBA play-in tournament .

With the victory, the 76ers become the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs to face the No. 2 seed New York Knicks in the first round. The loss puts the Heat in Friday’s playoff game against the Chicago Bulls or Atlanta Hawks. The winner will earn the No. 8 seed. The losing season will be over.

Heat dominates first half

Philadelphia slogged through a slow first half that Miami controlled en route to a 51-39 halftime lead. The 76ers couldn’t get through or over the Heat zone as they shot 32.6% from the field and 3-of-18 (16.7%) from 3.

Philadelphia’s 11th turnover of the half gave Miami a 37-26 lead, drawing a chorus of boos from the home crowd. A 9-0 Heat run capped by a Tyler Herro 3 gave Miami a 51-37 lead and drew more boos from the Philadelphia faithful. The 76ers looked finished.

76ers, the crowd comes alive after halftime

But the crowd perked up midway through the quarter when Miami’s Caleb Martin missed two free throws, sparking a free chicken promotion.

When the 76ers responded with a 5-0 run to cut Miami’s lead to 59-53, fans went wild. Nicolas Batum led a barrage of 3-pointers that saw the 76ers go 5 of 9 from long range in the third quarter as the 76ers cut their deficit to 74-69. Batum’s fifth 3 of the game early in the fourth gave the 76ers a 79-76 lead, their first since the first quarter.

From there, the game was a back-and-forth affair that saw Philadelphia pull away in the final minute. The 76ers made their free throws in the final sequence as Miami tried to extend the game while trailing in the final seconds.

Embiid fights, still leads 76ers

Joel Embiid scored 11 points in the fourth after struggling for much of the game. After sitting out the season finale to rest a knee injury that cost him 29 games in the regular season, he looked far from his best against Miami shooting 6 of 17 from the field. He still managed 23 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Batum made six 3-pointers off the bench in a 20-point, five-rebound effort.

After turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, the 76ers finished with 15 for the game. They shot 9 of 17 from 3 in the second half after their disastrous effort in the first to finish 12 of 35 (34.3%) from long range for the game.

Jimmy Butler led Miami’s defensive onslaught in the first half and had 19 points, five assists, four rebounds and five steals. His steals repeatedly led to easy baskets on the other end for the Heat. Tyler Herro overcame a poor shooting night (9 of 27) to lead the Heat with 25 points and nine assists. Bam Adebayo held his own against Embiid with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

But the Heat ultimately came up short when its defense failed to slow down Philadelphia’s 3-point shooting in the second half.

How will the 76ers fare against the Knicks?

The win sets the stage for an intriguing first-round playoff matchup between Philadelphia and New York. After falling at the play-in tournament with their MVP candidate sidelined, the 76ers are now safely in the playoffs with Embiid back in the lineup. If it’s anywhere near full strength for their Game 1 matchup and beyond, the 76ers won’t be an ordinary No. 7 seed.

The Knicks, for their part, will not play at full strength. All-Star Julius Randle is out for the season with a shoulder injury. OG Anunoby, however, is back after missing 27 games in the second half of the season with an elbow injury. He played the final six games of the regular season.

The first game between the Knicks and 76ers is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden.

News Source : sports.yahoo.com
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