After a scoreless first quarter, James Harden exploded for 31 points Sunday night as the fourth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers stopped the top-seeded Miami Heat 116-108 in Philadelphia, tying the teams’ best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games each.
Harden added nine assists and seven rebounds, applying the killing blow by drilling a 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining for a 114-103 advantage. The 76ers also got 24 points and 11 rebounds from Joel Embiid, while Tyrese Maxey hit for 18 points.
Game 5 of the series is set for Tuesday night in Miami, where the Heat easily won the first two games. But that was against a Philadelphia team missing Embiid, who was sidelined with a concussion and a fractured orbital suffered in Game 6 of the 76ers’ first round series win over Toronto.
Jimmy Butler was splendid in defeat for Miami, scoring a game-high 40 points on just 20 field goal attempts. However, he again didn’t have enough help from his teammates. Bam Adebayo added 21 points, but just two other Heat players hit for double figures.
Victor Oladipo tallied 15 off the bench for Miami, which was just 7 of 35 on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the 76ers sank 16 of 33 from the arc.
The first quarter was classic back-and-forth basketball. Miami used the foul line to its advantage, drawing two fouls on Harden and Tobias Harris. But Philadelphia kept pace with a 3-point barrage and took a 30-28 lead into the second period, thanks to two Embiid foul shots with 8.4 seconds left.
Harden overcame his foul trouble in the second quarter to score 13 points, including a 3-pointer that capped a 12-2 run that gave the 76ers a 56-46 advantage. They took a 64-56 margin to halftime when Maxey canned a runner with 5.0 seconds on the clock.
Philadelphia extended the advantage to 11 early in the third quarter before the Heat steadily reeled it in behind Butler. He had a 6-point possession to cut the lead to 74-70 and Miami drew within two before a Georges Niang layup made it 89-85 76ers after three.