No, nothing spectacular Wednesday night from the Miami Heat at FTX Arena, just what was required, a 119-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers that moved them to a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.
Jimmy Butler got his passing fancy on, closing with 22 points and 12 assists. Tyler Herro scored off the bench as needed, with 18 points. And Bam Adebayo took care of matters in the middle with his 23 points and nine rebounds. There also were 19 points from Victor Oladipo, who helped settle things late.
So even with Kyle Lowry yet to appear in the series, missing his fourth consecutive game with a hamstring strain, the Heat positioned themselves where needed heading into Friday’s 7 pm Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center.
“Every playoff game, oftentimes it just looks different, feels different,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And that’s what you saw tonight. It’s not easy to get playoff wins.
“Our defense really carried us tonight, but we had some really good, timely offensive plays.”
For the 76ers, it again was an inability to compensate for the absence of All-Star center Joel Embiid, who remained behind in Philadelphia with a concussion and orbital fracture sustained in the previous round, with no guarantee of a return Friday.
The 76ers got 34 points from Tyrese Maxey, 21 from Tobias Harris and 20 from James Harden, but their 3-point shooting remained off, at 8 of 30 from beyond the arc compared to the Heat’s 14 of 29.
“We will be ready for Game 3,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said.
But he made it clear it well could be without Embiid.
“He’s got so many steps to go through,” Rivers said. “I don’t think he’s cleared any of them right now.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat led 31-24 at the end of the first quarter, pushed their lead to 14 in the second, and went into the intermission up 60-52. Then, after going up 15 in the third, the Heat took a 91-80 advantage into the fourth.
Philadelphia then closed within eight early in the fourth, but the Heat countered with essentially a five-point possession, when, after an Adebayo dunk, the Heat then forced a turnover on the ensuing 76ers inbounds play, and Max Strus converted a 3-pointer for a 99-86 lead.
The Heat lead would grow to 18, before the 76ers got back within 10. But an Oladipo 3-pointer settled matters, with his 19 points matching the total of the 76ers’ bench.
2. Still a bucket: Presented his Sixth Man of the Year award pregame, Herro then came off the bench and showed how he earned it.
At one point, 76ers Rivers said he told his team, “Let’s make a mistake on anyone but Herro.”
Herro opened 4 of 4 from the field and 2 of 2 on 3-pointers in front of his college coach John Calipari, who was in attendance, seated behind the Heat bench.
Those 10 points came in his first 9:24. He had 16 at the intermission.
At times, it was as if the Heat were waiting for Herro to check in, in order to get the offense to a higher gear. Oladipo helped in that regard, as well.
“At the end of the day, that’s my role on this team,” Oladipo said of his transition to reserve. “I just try to go in there and make it tough defensively, and offensively make the right reads.”
3. Playmaker: Butler set the table early, with five first-quarter assists and already with a double-double with 4:10 left in the third period.
While not as dominant with his scoring as in the previous series against the Atlanta Hawks, Butler has helped compensate for Lowry’s absence with his facilitating.
Oh, and there also was another 3-pointer.
4. Harden time (briefly): Harden looked a lot more like Harden in the first half, even when hounded by the Heat’s PJ Tucker and Caleb Martin.
He was up to 16 points at the intermission, his first half with 15 or more points this postseason.
Harden’s 10 first-half shots tied for his high in any half in these playoffs.
And then he reverted to the Harden seen most of the season. He was limited to two points on 2-of-9 shooting in the third quarter, never a factor in his four-point second half.
“We’re just trying to make it tough on him,” Oladipo said.
5. Big thing: Even with the 76ers forced to go small in the absence of Embiid, Heat Spoelstra still went with backup center Dewayne Dedmon in his rotation.
Dedmon then was at the heart of a 14-6 run to end the first period that gave the Heat a 31-24 lead going into the second. He closed with seven points and five rebounds in 10:34.
The 76ers then increasingly went to small ball, going with Georges Niang and then Harris at center. Niang fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.