The conference semifinals between the No.1 seed Miami Heat and the No.4 seeded Philadelphia Sixers got underway on Monday night. This series began in Miami with the Heat coming off a five game series with the Atlanta Hawks and the Sixers coming off a six game series over the Toronto Raptors.
The Heat came into this Game 1 heavy favorites because they are looked at as the better team and they were at home. Philadelphia also came into this game without their best player in Joel Embiid who is out recovering from an orbital fracture and concussion.
Miami took full advantage of his absence, defeating Philadelphia 106-92 and taking a 1-0 series lead.
The Sixers showed a lot of fight without Embiid as they went into the half with a one-point lead (51-50) as they closed the second quarter on a 19-7 run. Then Miami took over the third quarter. They grabbed eight offensive rebounds and turned the halftime deficit into a 8-pt lead heading into the final quarter. They took that lead up to 21 and never looked back.
The Heat have now moved to 27-1 under head coach Erik Spoelstra when holding opponents to under 100 points and they are 12-2 in Game 1’s.
Big man Bam Adebayo had a double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds and felt he was just “making plays.” Jimmy Butler, who missed the closeout Game 5 against the Hawks returned to the starting lineup and scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. PJ Tucker and Gabe Vincent, who got his third straight start in place of Kyle Lowry (hamstring) scored 10 points each.
The bench for Miami was the biggest difference as they outscored Philadelphia’s bench 42-21. Frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro was the biggest reason. “It’s always hands on deck with us,” Herro said of stepping up in this game. “It’s next man up mentality no matter what, just have to find new ways to keep the offense going.” He scored ten straight points from the end of the 1st quarter, to the early 2nd quarter and he had team-high 25 points and added a game-high seven assist.
“He’s a worker,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Herro. “He’s relentless.”
Miami shot 17-18 from the FT line and those offensive rebounds helped them be a +10 (47-37) in that category.
Without Embiid, the Sixers showed a lot of fight and felt good at the half. Head coach Doc Rivers went with a zone early on defense that might have helped slow Miami’s early offense, eventually the depth of Miami wore them down. They only had three players in double-figures, but it was the three players who had to play well for them to have a chance to steal Game 1.
They still had an All-Star in James Harden who got his first look at the Heat in a Sixers uniform. He played well in the first half scoring 12 points, but only had four in the second half for 16 points. He did have team-highs in rebounds (9) and assist (5).
“Tonight especially in the second half we got some good looks, could have been better but I feel like we got good looks,” Harden said.
Wingman Tobias Harris picked up a lot of the slack with Embiid out scoring a game-high 27 points (11-18 FG) and also grabbed six rebounds. Tyrese Maxey had 19 points and made all six of his free throws. Maxey was asked after the game about the possibility of trying to get a win without Embiid, “It’s doable, It is doable and It’s not totally out of reach.”
“I didn’t like how we moved the ball,” Rivers said. “I thought we passed late tonight. I thought the physicality affected us tonight and that had an impact. There were too many times, we’d take the extra dribble and by the time we passed it they got there.”
Neither team shot the ball well from deep. The Sixers were 6-34 and the Heat were 9-36.
Game 2: Wednesday.
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