It happened. And I’m not just talking about Meek Mill being free.
The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Miami Heat 104-91 in Game 5 on Tuesday night to advance to the next round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. The Sixers used another big second half to eliminate the Heat and be the first Eastern Conference team to progress to the second round.
Tuesday night almost felt like a repeat of every game in this series. The Sixers got off to a slow start offensively while the Heat’s defense brought physicality to a slow game.
The two teams were tied at 46 after two quarters in the lowest scoring first half of the series. Philadelphia shot just 38.1 percent from the floor in the opening half and made just two of 12 attempts from beyond the arc. Joel Embiid led the way on offense, scoring 11 points on nine shot attempts. The 76ers outscored Miami by 15 during the center’s 16 first-half minutes on the court.
It did not take long for the Sixers to put their mark on the game, pulling away in the third quarter. The team used a 30-11 run to take control at Wells Fargo Center and the lead never dropped below eight points for the rest of the night.
Dario Saric scored 8 points in the third quarter after going 0-for-5 from the floor in the first half. He played 9 minutes and 10 seconds of the quarter and the Sixers outscored their opponents by 15 points in the span. Head coach Brett Brown went to the lineup with Saric and Ersan Ilyasova in the frontcourt and it did not disappoint. The Sixers finished with a 34-20 edge in the third quarter.
While no fans may want to give credit to the visitors, Miami certainly did not go quietly in the fourth quarter. It was the first time in the series that the Heat outscored the Sixers in a single quarter during the second half.
Philadelphia’s lead was momentarily reduced to eight points on multiple occasions but the hosts never completely let up. J.J. Redick knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:11 left on the clock to push the lead back to double digits and it stayed there until the final buzzer.
The Sixers finished the series with a plus-78 total point differential in the second halves. They were minus-24 in the first halves of the five games.
The Heat’s physical play began to take a toll on the team as they slowed down a step to the superior talented team. Miami was called for 32 fouls and the Sixers made them pay from the charity stripe. Philadelphia finished 29-for-36 from the free throw line, which was needed on a night that the Sixers went cold from deep.
Redick finished the night with a team-high 27 points. The veteran knocked down five of the team’s seven 3-pointers and went 10-for-10 on free throws. He also led the team in +/- with a plus-23 in 32 minutes on the court.
Embiid finished with another double-double in his most efficient game since his return. The big man had 19 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 8-for-14 from the field.
Rookie point guard Ben Simmons packed the stat sheet during the clinching game. He posted 14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in a team-high 35 minutes on the court. Simmons was also able to cut his turnovers in half from the Game 4 nightmare, finishing the night with just three turnovers.
TJ McConnell played a big role in the third quarter run when Simmons exited because of foul trouble. He played 12 minutes and scored 4 points to go with 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
It is the first time since 2012 that the franchise will play in the conference semifinals. They will play the winner of the Bucks-Celtics series which Boston currently leads 3-2.