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Philadelphia 76ers beat Miami Heat to tie up playoff series

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Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo, center, goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers’ Danny Green, left, and Joel Embiid, right, during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Philadelphia.

AP

The Heat saw the James Harden of old, not the old James Harden on Sunday night.

And even on a night when Jimmy Butler was brilliant, the Harden/Joel Embiid combo – coupled with more dreadful Heat three-point shooting – was too much for Miami to overcome.

With Harden scoring 16 in the fourth, Philadelphia held off a furious late Heat rally to win 116-108 and tie this series at two games apiece.

Game 5 is 7:30 p.m Tuesday at FTX Arena, with Game 6 now set for 7 p.m. Thursday in Philadelphia.

Jimmy Butler was once again very good, serving up a 40-point masterpiece.

But that wasn’t enough on a night that Harden scored 31 (with nine assists) and Embiid added 24 points and 11 rebounds.

For the second game in a row, the Heat didn’t resemble the team that led the NBA in three-point shooting during the regular season.

The Heat, after shooting 7 on 30 on threes in Game 3, shot just 7 for 35 from distance, while Philadelphia made 16 of 33.

Those 28 Heat misses from three point range included fourth quarter airballs from Butler and Tyler Herro.

Like in Game 3, the three-point shooting was the difference in the game.

This is notable: Philadelphia shot 14 of 64 on threes in the first two games in Miami. The Heat shot 14 of 65 on threes in the two games in Philadelphia.

Embiid – wearing a mask to protect his orbital fracture – seized on Miami’s switching defense, which often left him being defended by a player substantially shorter.

Even when 6-9 Bam Adebayo guards him, Embiid has a three-inch height advantage. But because of the Heat’s switching defense, Embiid often found himself matched up against defenders six to 12 inches shorter (in Kyle Lowry’s case).

With Adebayo sidelined for much of the third quarter with foul trouble, Embiid was consistently guarded by much smaller players, often the 6-5 PJ Tucker or 6-4 Victor Oladipo, and then, for a four-minute stretch, by 6-9 Markieff Morris.

And though the Heat lost no ground in those minutes, Miami missed too many good looks to ever pull ahead in the second half.

The Heat, which trailed 89-85 after three, found itself down by 12 three minutes into the fourth, then rallied again, pulling to within two before Harden put them away.

Harden looked like the former MVP version in both the second quarter (13 points, 4 assists) and the fourth. This was his first 30 point game of the postseason.

Danny Green, after shooting 7 of 9 on three-pointers in Game 2, made his three attempts from long range and closed with 11 points

And Tyrese Maxey was again a pain, speeding by Heat defenders on an 18 point night.

Butler kept the Heat afloat, following his 33-point Game 3 by shooting 13 of 20 from the field and 12 of 13 on free throws in Game 4.

Besides the 40 points, Butler added six assists and three rebounds.

But once again, it wasn’t enough.

Still troubled by a hamstring injury that sidelined him for four recent games, Lowry was visibly limping and wincing throughout the game and retreated to the locker room briefly in the third quarter.

He played 30 minutes, but once again struggled, as he did in Game 3.

Lowry shot 3 for 10 from the field – including 0 for 6 on threes – and finished with six points and seven assists and four turnovers. He’s now 3 for 14 from the field, with six points, in his two games in this series.

Bam Adebayo, after a poor Game 3, was better in Game 4 (21 points, 7 boards) but left for an extended stretch with his fourth foul with 8:24 left in the third quarter and the Heat down nine.

With Dwayne Dedmon sidelined by a head cold, the Heat went small when Adebayo was out of the game, often using Tucker and Oladipo to defend the 7-0 Embiid.

But Miami lost no ground in those first half minutes. And after Adebayo left with his fourth foul, the Heat outscored the 76ers by five before Adebayo re-entered to start the fourth quarter.

Erik Spoelstra used Oladipo as his first substitute (replacing Adebayo), followed by Herro and Gabe Vincent, who picked up three fouls in three minutes.

Spoelstra went to Morris for the first time in this series in the final four minutes of the third quarter, after Tucker picked up his fourth foul.

Tucker then picked up his fifth with 8:25 left in the game.

Oladipo had some very good moments, repeatedly driving to the basket and creating contact. He went to the line for eight free throws in the first half, making six of them.

Oladipo (15) and Herro (11) gave the Heat offense off the bench, but Oladipo shot 3 for 9 and Herro 4 for 12. Both were 1 for 5 on threes.

Gabe Vincent (two points on 1 for 6 shooting) was the only other Heat reserve who scored, and Spoelstra again bypassed using Duncan Robinson despite the Heat’s three-point struggles.

Even though Embiid scored 15 in the first quarter, the Heat surged ahead 44-41 midway through the second quarter before Philadelphia – thanks largely to Harden and Green – erupted on a 15-2 run after Lowry retreated to the locker room for several minutes.

The 76ers led 64-56 at the half, and it could have been worse, considering the 76ers made 9 of 16 threes in the first half, while the Heat made 4 of 18.

But Harden delivered the dagger in the fourth, sending this series back to Miami tied at 2.

This story was originally published May 8, 2022 10:37 PM.

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.