For a half on Monday, Tyrese Maxey, James Harden and Tobias Harris had enough firepower for the 76ers to keep things close.
But when the final buzzer sounded, the absence of Joel Embiid proved far too much to overcome as the Miami Heat cruised to a 106-92 Game 1 victory over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Led by Bam Adebayo, the Heat controlled the interior while Tyler Herro got hot from outside.
By the fourth quarter, the 76ers were exhausted and out of answers for a smothering Heat defense that contested every shot. Head coach Doc Rivers waved the white flag, emptying his bench for the final four-plus minutes of the game.
Heat put clamps on in second half
The 76ers threatened to keep things close early, posting a 12-0 run that spanned the second and third quarters en route to a 55-50 lead. Maxey proved a tough guard while Harris stepped up in Embiid’s absence in a 27-point effort.
But the Heat countered with a 10-0 run in the third to take a 70-61 advantage. They stepped on the gas in the fourth quarter, holding the 76ers scoreless for a 4:40 stretch that prompted Rivers to pull his starters.
Adebayo finished the game with 24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while shooting 8 of 10 from the field. The 76ers countered with DeAndre Jordan in the starting lineup. Paul Millsap and Paul Reed joined him in the post in a committee effort to fill Embiid’s massive void.
They combined for eight points, 12 rebounds and three blocks while shooting 4 of 8 from the field. Jordan accounted for four points, two rebounds and two blocks in the starting role while attempting just two shots from the field. The Heat beyondbounded the 76ers, 47-37, while holding a 15-9 edge on the offensive glass. Adebayo finished with a plus-26 in the plus-minus column.
Doc Rivers sticking with DeAndre Jordan
After the game, head coach Doc Rivers told reporters that he’d continue to start Jordan while Embiid is sidelined.
“We are going to keep starting him whether you like it or not because our guys believe in him,” Rivers said.
Herro was in prime form off the bench, leading Miami in scoring with 25 points while shooting 9 of 17 from the field including a 4-of-6 effort from 3-point distance. The inside-out attack was too much for the 76ers, even as the Heat likewise played shorthanded with starting point guard Kyle Lowry sidelined for a third straight game with a hamstring injury.
Given the chance for a starring role in Embiid’s absence, former league MVP Harden instead played as the third option for Philadelphia in a 16-point, nine-rebound, five-assist effort. Maxey tallied 19 points but contributed little elsewhere with two assists and no rebounds or defensive stats.
Philadelphia will play Game 2 on Wednesday again without Embiid, who didn’t travel to Miami while nursing a concussion and orbital fracture sustained in Thursday’s Round 1 closeout win over the the Toronto Raptors. There’s reportedly optimism in Philadelphia that he’ll return for Game 3 or 4, but he’ll need to get medical clearance first.