Sixers defense, Maxey doom Heat in playoff-like Eastern Conference clash

Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey scored 24 of his 37 points in the first half of a win over the Miami Heat on Thursday in Miami. Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA-EFE
Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey scored 24 of his 37 points in the first half of a win over the Miami Heat on Thursday in Miami. Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA-EFE

MIAMI, April 4 (UPI) -- Two perennial Eastern Conference contenders used relentless scoring runs to frantically wrestle momentum, but the Philadelphia 76ers defense dominated late, freezing Miami Heat shooters for a close win Thursday in Miami.

The game featured just four lead changes and was tied twice, but a frigid streak of just one made field goal over the final 8:18 doomed the Heat. The matchup maintained a playoff-like atmosphere from the tip-off to the final buzzer, with the 76ers claiming the gritty 109-105 victory at the Kaseya Center.


"It was a super competitive game," 76ers coach Nick Nurse told reporters. "It always is [against the Heat]. It's always intense, physical [with] lots of energy expended with everyone out there."

The Sixers (42-35), winners of three-consecutive games, snapped the Heat's three-game winning streak. With the victory, they held on to the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.


The Heat (42-34) dropped from No. 6 to No. 7 in the same standings. The Nos. 7 through 10 seeds will make the NBA Play-In Tournament, with two of those teams advancing to the playoffs.

"We are right next to each other in the standings, so that's what games are going to be like," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. ... They made the final run. That's what's disappointing about this."

Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey scored a game-high 37 points in Thursday's victory. All-NBA center Joel Embiid, who returned Tuesday from a two-month injury hiatus, chipped in 29 points.

The Sixers made their first six shots of the night, scoring the initial 12 points of the game as part of a 17-2 game-opening surge. Maxey scored 15 points over the first 12 minutes to drive a 39-29 Sixers lead into the second quarter.

But the Heat, who ended the first quarter on a 10-4 run, added a 17-4 run to start the second en route to their first lead of the night. They outscored the visitors 26-24 in the quarter, but still trailed 63-55 at the break.


Heat forward Haywood Highsmith scored 12 points off the bench in the second quarter. Maxey scored 24 points in the first half, while Embiid chipped in 21.

The Heat outscored the 76ers 33-24 in the third quarter. They ended the quarter on a 10-0 run to take an 88-87 edge into the fourth. That run continued with seven unanswered to start the final frame.

The 76ers went on to respond with a backbreaking 13-0 run to snatch back momentum in the final minutes and never looked back.

They held a 22-17 scoring edge over the final 12 minutes, with the Heat making just 6 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter.

Veteran guard Terry Rozier led the Heat with 22 points. He made 6 of 13 3-point attempts. Star forward Jimmy Butler chipped in 20 points for the Heat. Center Bam Adebayo totaled 14 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

Forward Kelly Oubre Jr. logged 18 points -- including 12 in the second half -- and eight rebounds for the 76ers.

The Heat will face the Houston Rockets at 8 p.m. EDT Friday in Houston. The 76ers will take on the Memphis Grizzlies at 8 p.m. Saturday in Memphis.


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