Heat put on ice as 76ers advance

The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat in five games. (AFP pic)

PHILADELPHIA: The Philadelphia 76ers advanced to the second round of the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs on Tuesday, defeating the Miami Heat 104-91 to seal a 4-1 series victory.

J. J. Redick scored 27 points and Joel Embiid added 19 as the Sixers set up a second-round meeting against either the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks.

A fiercely contested duel at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center was effectively settled in the third quarter, when the Sixers pulled clear to take a decisive lead.

Prior to that there had been little to separate the two sides, with the score tied at 46-46 at halftime.

But the Sixers surged into a 66-54 lead after Robert Covington’s three-pointer with 6:11 remaining in the third period.

Philadelphia eventually outscored Miami 34-20 in the third quarter, giving them a healthy buffer that Miami never came close to overturning.

Philadelphia will head into the next round in a buoyant mood after an impressive all-round offensive display that saw five players reach double figures.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown said the team was reaping the benefit of a long-term rebuilding strategy.

“I was hired in 2013 and I sat with a few of the owners and we talked about the vision and what we hoped to build,” Brown said.

“And through rough times, through adversity, we didn’t blink. We stayed strong in what we were trying to do. And we’ve got more to do.”

“We’ve got more to give. We’re excited for sure.”

On Tuesday, Embiid had 12 rebounds to go with his 19 points while Australian rookie Ben Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

Philadelphia transformed their fortunes this season after years languishing near the foot of the Eastern Conference.

In 2016 they finished with a league-worst record of 10 wins and 72 defeats but this season turned it around to finish third in the East.