Now they will have to face Orlando and the Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers were very soft on both sides of the court.
Jimmy Butler returned to Philadelphia with the Miami Heat jersey and starred with 24 points in his team’s 129-101 victory against some 76ers already focused on the ‘playoffs’, to stay in the fight with the Brooklyn Nets for the sixth position.
If the 76ers are already secure in the third position in the East, the Heat entered Philadelphia as seventh, but still with a small chance of finishing sixthwhich would allow them to avoid the ‘play-in’ and directly access the ‘playoffs’.
The Heat are one win away from the Netswho also have a head-to-head advantage, with two games remaining in the regular season.
Miami will close out its year with a visit to the Washington Wizards and a home game against the Orlando Magic. The Nets will face Orlando and the Philadelphia 76ers and it is worth ending with the same balance as the Heat to be sixth.
Butler finished with 24 points and a nine out of twelve accuracy from the fieldsupported by Tyler Herro’s 24 and Bam Adebayo’s fourteen points and eight rebounds.
The Heat shot 46% from the arc, with five triples from Herro, after being the best team in the NBA last year in three-point shooting.
Erick Spoelstra’s team won three consecutive victories for the first time in two months and reaches the postseason in good form.
In the Sixers, Joel Embiid had 21 points and six rebounds in thirty minuteswhile James Harden contributed fourteen points, four rebounds and four assists.
Shake Milton contributed eleven points and nine assists coming off the bench.
The difference in motivations was evident from the first moment at the Wells Fargo Center, with an aggressive Heat determined to fight for every play and some very soft 76ers on both sides of the track.
The Heat had a maximum advantage of 25 points and they had a 21-point margin in the first half (67-46), with Tyler Herro having 16 points and Butler and Adebayo solid with ten points each.
Despite that and having the game already largely uphill, Doc Rivers kept Embiid and Harden on track and their players responded with a more intense start to the third period.
An 11-0 run, capped off with a triple by Melton, brought the Sixers closer to 59-74 and forced Erick Spoelstra’s timeout.
It remained little more than an anecdote, well a Butler who touched perfection relaunched the Heat with fourteen points in that four to once again increase the advantage to 18 points at 96-78.
The 76ers threw in the towel in the fourth quarter and, with Embiid and Harden on the bench, the Heat took advantage of it for a 10-0 run which gave them a maximum advantage of 33 points before sealing the victory with a definitive 129-101.