James Harden made a sensational move in the post-season with a step-back 3 for 76, which rekindled his dominant form. Joel Embiid is playing the game better, and the MVP finalist may have his best basketball forward.
Embed is ready. So it’s Harden. And if the Miami Heat can’t locate The Mask and The Beard, the next thing they face could be the off-season.
“I don’t think we played our best basketball,” Embiid said.
Harden scored 31 points, Embiid had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers beat Miami 116-108 in Game 4 on Sunday night to lift the Eastern Conference Semifinals series.
The Heat won the first two games in Miami with Embiid with a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion. The 76ers embed at home and with their masks on the lineup won Games 3 and 4.
Oh yes, this time Embiid is along for the ride. No wonder 76 people feel better about their chances on this trip to Florida.
“Joel is going to be able to play,” said coach Doc Rivers, laughing.
The Heat took the lead and reached within five until Harden dropped his fifth 3-pointer of the game with three minutes remaining. Harden crushed the Heat on catch-and-shoot 3s and hit one clutch shot after another for 16 points in the fourth. He last played in the postseason like the three-time scoring champion Sixers needed when they were traded for him in February.
“Nothing really changed. I just made shots,” Harden said.
Harden drilled a step-back 3 for a 114-103 lead that sent the crowd into a frenzy – and the Sixers headed to Miami with new life. He finished with six 3s, nine assists and seven rebounds.
“It’s just James James,” Rivers said. “I felt like he was going to have a big game tonight. You can just feel it.”
Jimmy Butler scored 40 points on 13 of 20 shootings from the floor, 12 of 13 free throws and a nearly one-man lead to lead the Heat. The Heat, who scored 38% on 3 during the season, missed 28 of 35 3-pointers.
“I thought we had some really cool looks. We just missed them,” said Heat coach Eric Spoelstra.
Embiid worked on Game 3 Cobweb and returned in major form which earned him the season-long “MVP!” earned. Mantras from Philly Diehards. His first quarter was almost as good as it was for the center. He made 5 of 6 shots, including a 3-pointer, and scored 15 points to advance the Sixers. Tired in Game 3 from days of inactivity due to concussion, Embiid played all 12 minutes in the quarter.
Here’s a scary thought for Miami.
“We haven’t seen Joel’s best performance in this series yet,” Rivers said. “He’s still trying to figure out how to play with that mask slipping across his face.”
With no score in the first quarter, Harden followed Embiid’s warm start and scored 13 runs in the second. He missed his first four shots of the game until he buried a 3 and then rolled. He made a bucket in the transition during the 15-2 run and then waved to the crowd, asking them to call out loud.
Philadelphia shot 64% from the floor in the half. But 10 turnovers – that Miami converted to 13 points – kept the Sixers from stretching the lead well into double digits. The Sixers made nine 3s in half of Miami’s four.
Butler kept the Heat in the game with six consecutive points. He hit a layup, was nailed to the face by Embiid – who was whistled for a flag, then helped his former teammate to his feet – and Butler made a free throw. Butler scored 3 runs from possession and the heats reached 74-70.
Butler drew Embiid’s third foul with 1:37 left in the third and converted a three-point play that drew the Heat to within four. Butler trolled Embiid on Instagram when the Sixers posted a photo of him in a mask and cited a line from “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Butler wrote, “(expletive) yo mask.”
Butler scored 17 points in the third, yet the Heat still trailed 89-85. 76ers fans let him do it when Butler fired an airball in the fourth and Harden came right down and captured a step-back 3 for a 97–85 lead.
“He’s a good player. He did what he was supposed to do,” Butler said of Harden.
Butler scored 33 points in Game 3 and is taking the heat. He is mostly doing it alone.
Embid, well, he has Harden.
“That’s why here he is,” said Embiid. “It’s only 2-2. We have a lot of work to do. But I’m excited about what we can achieve.”
Heat: Dwayne Deadmon (Illness) exits Game 4. … Laurie, who made his first bucket of the series on a layup, walked into the locker room in the first half with a balky hamstring. He missed four straight playoff games before Game 3 with a left hamstring strain. Spoelstra said that Lowry was a “warrior”, but was unsure whether the guard would play in Game 5.
76ers: Tobias Harris lost his voice and was grieved when he was spotted in the windpipe by Bam Adebayo at the end of the game.
Harden, Embiid Power 76ers Last Heat, Even Series 2-2