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NBA: Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers

James Harden, Joel Embiid help 76ers even series vs. Heat

May 9, 2022, 3:03 AM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

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.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers fined $50K for injury reporting on Joel Embiid

May 8, 2022, 12:31 AM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The NBA fined the Philadelphia 76ers $50,000 on Saturday for violating league injury reporting rules on the return of Joel Embiid.

According to the NBA, the Sixers failed to disclose Embiid's participation status in an accurate and timely manner prior to Friday night's Game 3 of their conference semifinal playoff series against the Miami Heat.

Embiid missed both opening games in Miami after suffering a fractured orbital bone in Philadelphia's clinching victory over Toronto in the first round.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers look to even series vs. Heat behind Joel Embiid

May 7, 2022, 11:06 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Maybe all it took for the fourth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers to crawl back into contention in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the top-seeded Miami Heat was the presence of NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid.

Even Embiid at less than 100 percent was a significant factor in Philly's 99-79 win Friday night that cut Miami's series lead to 2-1. He scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, along with an emphatic late-game rejection that symbolized the change from the first two games to Game 3.

Embiid and the 76ers will try to even the series when they host the Heat on Sunday night in Game 4.

After averaging 112.5 points in scoring 14- and 16-point wins at home, the Heat went cold on the road. They hit only 35.1 percent from the field, including a miserable 7 of 30 from 3-point range (23.3 percent). And their defense and rebounding failed to pick up the slack.

It didn't help that they had to contend with Embiid for the first time in the series.

Although he was held 12 points under his 30.6 scoring average, Embiid still brought drastic improvement just by being out there. Danny Green came alive from the perimeter, burying seven 3-pointers, and Tyrese Maxey followed up a 34-point Game 2 with 21 more on Friday night.

"Any plan where you can have Joel as part of the plan is a much better plan," said 76ers coach Doc Rivers. "I knew his presence would have an impact. I was positive of that."

Embiid missed the games in Miami with a right orbital fracture and concussion suffered during a series-clinching victory in the first round at Toronto. He was already playing with a thumb injury that will require postseason surgery.

But he was cleared by doctors to play on Thursday and was just effective enough to give Philadelphia its first momentum of the series.

"You add Joel to any team, home or away, the game, the scouting report, it changes drastically," said Heat forward Jimmy Butler. "It's been like that for his entire career."

Butler did his share and then some to pull Miami across the finish line, with 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting and nine rebounds, but he didn't get enough help. Only Tyler Herro joined him in double figures and it took him 15 shots to score his 14 points.

Bam Adebayo was a non-entity in his 33 minutes, making just 2-of-9 shots, scoring nine points while grabbing only three rebounds. Aside from Butler, the Heat starters scored just 22 points and were a combined 7 of 27 from the field.

Miami did get Kyle Lowry back from a hamstring strain that sidelined him for the final two games of its series win over Atlanta and the first two games against the 76ers. But Lowry played like someone chipping off rust, missing all four of his shots and not scoring in his 25 minutes on the floor.

Regardless of who plays, though, the big story in this series is the big man who's injected life into Philadelphia's once-flagging hopes.

"We have a good chance to win it all," Embiid said. "We've got to stay healthy."

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat

76ers home underdogs in Game 3 minus Joel Embiid

May 6, 2022, 5:59 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The 76ers are back home and desperate for a turnaround in Philadelphia. Any rally from a 2-0 series deficit might have to happen without MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

With the Miami Heat in control of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals, Philadelphia on Thursday officially ruled out Embiid with myriad battle wounds from the 76ers' first-round series win over Toronto.

On Friday, the 76ers announced that Embiid had cleared concussion protocol and participated in the team's morning shootaround.

However, Embiid remains listed as out and he still has what coach Doc Rivers called "hurdles to clear" -- including an orbital fracture and torn thumb ligament -- but his status could change before tip-off Friday night.

Miami won't be caught off guard if the Philadelphia star returns after missing the first two games of the series.

"They're coming home. Obviously, they are in an 0-2 hole, so I do expect him to play," Heat forward Bam Adebayo said before the injury report was released.

The 76ers opened as 1.5-point underdogs at DraftKings and BetMGM. The Embiid injury news drove a shift to a 3.5-point spread at BetMGM, where Philadelphia had been backed by just 23 percent of the bets and 22 percent of the handle as of Friday morning.

Embiid's return, even at less than full strength, might put a spring in Philly's step. His continued absence, however, would put the onus on the rest of the supporting cast to play a starring role without the All-Star in the middle.

"How much attention he's gonna draw from everybody when he's on the floor whether he's on the perimeter, at the elbow, on the block," Heat forward Jimmy Butler said. "What he does defensively for those guys is pretty incredible, too. I'm not a statistics guy or analytics, but I can tell you, whenever he's on the floor, they are a much better team. I want him to get right because we want to play against who I call the MVP."

Shooting has been dismal for the Sixers in the series, but Rivers said shot selection and his perspective that good shots are available are selling points to motivate Philadelphia for Friday's pivotal game. Philadelphia made just 21.9 percent (14 of 64) from 3-point range in the first two games of this series.

Embiid has done only light workouts since sustaining his head injuries April 28 at Toronto. He led the NBA in scoring (30.6). He also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

There could be a shift in the rotation on Friday, but Rivers likely can't avoid playing DeAndre Jordan big minutes against Adebayo. Jordan has a plus-minus of -22 in the series.

Home court could be a benefit to the Sixers. Philadelphia went 24-17 at home this season, which is identical to Miami's road record.

The Sixers shot 36.4 percent from 3-point range in the regular season, relying on players such as Tyrese Maxey (42.7 percent); Georges Niang (40.3); Seth Curry (40.0); Embiid (37.1); and Tobias Harris (36.7).

Niang went 0-for-7 from distance in Game 1 and fouling out in just 10 minutes and five points in Game 2.

Here's the 3-point shooting in this series from other struggling Sixers: Danny Green 2-for-14; Maxey 2-for-10; James Harden 3-for-12; and Harris 3-for-9.

"We've got to make shots," said Harden, who is averaging 18.0 points in the series. "It's simple."

Maxey is averaging a team-high 26.5 points in this series, and Harris is averaging 23.0 points.

"We've got to go back to the drawing board," Maxey said. "We have to figure it out."

The Heat have never lost a playoff series after taking a 2-0 lead, going 18-0, while the Sixers are 0-19 after going down 2-0.

History aside, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wants to guard against overconfidence.

"It's never easy to get playoff wins," he said.

Butler and Adebayo are playing well with the staring unit and Tyler Herro remains the one player Rivers said he doesn't want the 76ers to leave alone.

Adebayo is averaging 23.5 points and 10.5 rebounds against Embiid's fill-ins. Herro is averaging 21.5 points, and Butler has been an all-around force with 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and a team-high 7.5 assists in building the 2-0 lead.

Miami is playing without starting point guard Kyle Lowry, who is questionable due to a strained hamstring. Lowry is lobbying to return on Friday, but Spoelstra said the team is being cautious.

"We're not basing our decisions on whether we are winning or losing," Spoelstra said. "It's about what we think is best."

The Heat also listed Herro and defensive stopper P.J. Tucker (calf) as questionable. Both played in Game 2 and Tucker, part of the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks last season, made it sound like he's not sitting.

"It's about who's built for this," Tucker said of the playoff injury report earlier this week. "Who's going to put the mask on, knee sleeve on, and icy hot and going to give you what I got."

The 210.5-point Over/Under at BetMGM has held steady since the market opened, with the Over drawing 56 percent of the bets and but Under backed by 65 percent of the handle. The same point total at DraftKings had seen the Over supported by 78 and 75 percent, respectively.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors

Sixers C Joel Embiid clears concussion protocol

May 6, 2022, 4:05 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers announced that center Joel Embiid cleared concussion protocol and participated in Friday's shootaround.

He is still officially listed as out for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat on Friday night in Philadelphia, but his status could be upgraded. The Sixers trail 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Embiid, who did not travel to Miami for the first two games, is still dealing with a fractured right orbital bone and a torn ligament in his right thumb.

Embiid's head injuries resulted from a play with 3:58 left in the 76ers' clinching Game 6 victory against the Toronto Raptors on April 28. Philadelphia led 119-90 when Toronto's Pascal Siakam caught Embiid in the face with an elbow on a drive to the basket.

A five-time All-Star, Embiid won the NBA scoring title this season with 30.6 points to go with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He averaged 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds in the first-round series against Toronto.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors

Hurting 76ers' Joel Embiid has 'hurdles to clear' to return for Game 3

May 5, 2022, 7:44 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

76ers center Joel Embiid made progress but his status for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday is to be determined, Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said Thursday.

Embiid must clear concussion protocol and awaits full medical clearance to play with a fractured right orbital bone. Rivers said Embiid remains in the NBA's concussion protocol and has "hurdles to clear" before he gets the green light to join the 76ers on the court. That doesn't even call into question the health of Embiid's hand. He finished the first-round series against Toronto with a torn ligament in his thumb.

Miami took a 2-0 series lead, but Heat guard Jimmy Butler said his team wants Embiid in the lineup.

"I want to compete against him. I really do," Butler said Thursday, adding he expects Embiid to play the rest of the series. "I think they are a completely different team whenever he is out there both offensively and defensively, and so we're looking forward to that."

Rivers said the team is positive entering Game 3 with or without Embiid after a team film session highlighting the good looks at the basket that just didn't go in at Miami. Embiid, Rivers said, should be able to hit the ground running when he is available.

"This is the playoffs, you don't get time like in the regular season to come back and work out with staff and stuff for three or four days. Unfortunately, that's not how the playoffs are built," Rivers said. "When guys go down in the playoffs, they often have to come back with no work. That makes it very difficult for them when they come back. That doesn't necessarily mean they're going to play great, or sometimes they do, you just don't know."

Embiid's head injuries resulted from a play with 3:58 left in the Sixers' clinching Game 6 against the Raptors on April 28. Philadelphia led 119-90 when Toronto's Pascal Siakam caught Embiid in the face with an elbow on a drive to the basket.

A five-time All-Star, Embiid has experienced a similar facial injury. In 2018, he fractured his left orbital bone and was sidelined for three weeks before returning to action in the playoffs, wearing a facemask.

Rivers emphasized Thursday that a win for Philadelphia on Friday brings the series as close as it could possibly be after three games. Erik Spoelstra said the Heat have to prepare as if Embiid is coming back.

"It changes dramatically. You're talking about MVP talent," Spoelstra said. "So we'll just have to see. We knew this series was going to shift and it's going to change pretty dramatically. It's better for it to change dramatically when we're able to get a couple wins, but yeah, he changes the equation quite a bit -- you have to plan for it."

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat

Heat big favorites to stake 2-0 series lead vs. 76ers

May 4, 2022, 6:58 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers will look for a stronger performance on the glass without Joel Embiid on Wednesday when they visit the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Philadelphia was outrebounded by a 47-37 margin -- including 15-9 on the offensive glass -- in its 106-92 setback in the series opener Monday. The 76ers also shot themselves in the foot by making just 17.6 percent of their attempts from 3-point range (6 of 34).

"Very similar to the (first-round series against) Toronto, in that we told our guys they can't have more rebounds than us, they can't force turnovers because they can't have more shots than us," Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said.

"We're working with a small margin for error, so we can't give a team 13 extra shots on the road without Joel and think we're going to win a game."

Embiid had been ruled out for Wednesday's contest prior to the series opener due to an orbital fracture and concussion sustained in Game 6 in the opening round against the Toronto Raptors. The five-time All-Star also is nursing a torn ligament in his right thumb.

"Two things that we've been preaching, even from last series," teammate James Harden said. "... Things that we can control are rebounding the basketball and not turning the basketball over. (Those are) things that we can control, and once we do that next game, we'll have a better chance of winning."

The 76ers are 8.5-point underdogs at BetMGM, where the Heat have drawn 60 percent of the spread bets and 66 percent of the handle. The 8.0-point line at DraftKings has seen Miami backed by 66 and 68 percent, respectively.

Harden is being looked upon to provide more offensive punch in the absence of Embiid, the NBA's regular-season leading scorer. Harden had 16 points, a team high-tying nine rebounds and five assists, however the former league MVP also made just 5 of 13 shots and committed five turnovers.

All-Star Bam Adebayo made his presence felt on the interior for the Heat in the absence of Embiid. Adebayo sank 8 of 10 shot attempts in the opener to finish with 24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

"Both ends of the court. His relentlessness, that effort," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said of Adebayo, who averaged just 12.4 points in the first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

DeAndre Jordan finished minus-22 in just 17 minutes after being inserted into the starting lineup in place of Embiid. Paul Reed came off the bench and showed flashes before being hampered by foul trouble.

Miami's Tyler Herro worked the exterior to the tune of sinking 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range to highlight his 25-point performance. Herro, in fact, outscored Philadelphia's bench, which finished with 21 points and made just 1 of 12 attempts from 3-point range.

"Just kick in on it," Herro said. "We won the first series as we should have. Now we keep moving on and taking care of business."

Jimmy Butler collected 15 points and nine rebounds in his return from a one-game absence due to a knee injury.

Miami once again will be without Kyle Lowry due to a strained hamstring. The six-time All-Star has not played since Game 3 of the first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks on April 22.

Sportsbooks are expecting a fairly low-scoring game, with a 207.5-point Over/Under being offered by BetMGM and DraftKings.

The Over is slightly favored with 51 percent of the handle at the former and a bit more popular with 63 percent at the latter.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat

Heat G Tyler Herro wins NBA Sixth Man of the Year

May 3, 2022, 10:59 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro won the 2022 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, the league announced Tuesday.

Herro won 96 of the 100 available first-place votes for 488 total points from a voting panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Cleveland Cavaliers big man Kevin Love (three first-place votes, 214 points) finished second in voting and Phoenix Suns forward Cam Johnson (one first-place vote, 128 points) was third.

In his third NBA season, Herro averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game with 39.9 percent shooting from 3-point range for Miami, which earned the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

Herro comes off the bench but plays starters' minutes. He averaged 32.6 minutes per game in 66 appearances but started just 10 games.

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, who won the award in 2021, finished fourth in voting this season.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Atlanta Hawks

Heat G Kyle Lowry (hamstring) ruled out for Game 2

May 3, 2022, 6:07 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry will not play in Game 2 on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers due to a lingering hamstring injury.

The six-time All-Star has not played since April 22 when he suffered the injury in Game 3 of Miami's first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The top-seeded Heat defeated the visiting Sixers 106-92 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series on Monday.

The Heat also announced Tuesday that forwards Jimmy Butler (knee) and Markieff Morris (illness) have been removed from the injury report, although Butler missed Tuesday's practice with an excused absence.

Five Miami players are listed as questionable for Game 2: sixth man Tyler Herro (ankle), forwards P.J. Tucker (calf), Max Strus (hamstring) and Caleb Martin (ankle), and guard Gabe Vincent (knee).

--Field Level Media

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers

76ers big Game 1 underdogs at Heat minus Joel Embiid

May 2, 2022, 7:23 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

While the Miami Heat's star player is expected to play, the same can't be said for the Philadelphia 76ers' franchise cornerstone.

Jimmy Butler (knee), who missed Game 5 of the Heat's first-round series win against the Atlanta Hawks, will likely return at home to face the Sixers on Monday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Tyler Herro (non-COVID illness) is also expected back while Kyle Lowry (hamstring) has been ruled out for the top-seeded Heat.

Philadelphia's Joel Embiid is dealing with a bevy of injuries including a torn ligament in his right thumb, a concussion and an orbital fracture from when Toronto's Pascal Siakam elbowed him late in Game 6 with the Sixers up by 29 points.

Butler, a former Sixer, believes that he'll be 100 percent to open this tough series.

"It's all right," Butler said, referring to his knee. "We (had) another day in between. More treatment. Get out there, rip and run. And I know it'll be ready to hold up come Monday. But the time off has been great for myself and so many other guys that are nicked up."

No matter who's available, the Heat are preparing for a battle. It's the only way they know.

"I think both rosters are going into this knowing both sides have enough to get the job done," Butler said. "We've got a job to do. They've got a job to do. I'm banking on the Miami Heat."

Said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra: "We are who we are. We're not a passive defensive team. If you want to be aggressive, you have to be exceptionally detailed, disciplined, focused. We have deep respect for them with the names they have available."

The fourth-seeded Sixers haven't advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals since 2001 and last won a championship in 1983.

Philadelphia has been eliminated in the conference semifinals in three of the last four years.

While Embiid could return for Game 3 in this series, it's clearly going to be a daunting challenge to start without him on the road.

A consensus 7.5-point underdog entering Game 1, the 76ers have been backed by 44 percent of the spread handle at DraftKings and 48 percent at BetMGM.

However, their +280 moneyline at DraftKings has drawn only 19 percent of the total bets and handle. Offered at a +260 moneyline at BetMGM, Philadelphia has been backed by 35 percent of the handle.

"I'm going to the game thinking it's a fight," Philadelphia's Georges Niang said. "If I'm going into a fight, I'd rather hit than be hit. So I'm not going in thinking it's going to be any less physical. ... I'm going in thinking it's going to be a brawl. Once you get closer and closer to the championship, that's really what it comes down to."

The Sixers will counter with a combination of DeAndre Jordan, Paul Reed and Charles Bassey. This trio of reserves won't come close to matching Embiid's Most Valuable Player-caliber production, but it's their cruel reality.

"We're gonna need added efforts from different guys with different opportunities," Tobias Harris said. "Overall, we kind of know from the last series what worked for us. We have to move the basketball and just whatever happens, go from there. Guys have to be properly spaced and being prepared and ready."

The Sixers went 6-8 without Embiid during the regular season.

"We almost won the game in Golden State without Joel so it's possible," 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. "We just have to focus on the two games in Miami and see what happens."

The two teams split four meetings during the regular season.

The 208.5-point Over/Under at BetMGM is a shift after opening at 210.5 points. The Over has drawn 58 percent of the bets and 55 percent of the handle.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat

Heat's Jimmy Butler questionable, Kyle Lowry out for Game 1

May 1, 2022, 4:54 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler is questionable to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers because of right knee inflammation, the team said Sunday.

Butler wasn't alone in being listed as questionable for Monday's series opener, however. The top-seeded Heat also listed guards Max Strus (hamstring) and Tyler Herro (respiratory illness) and forwards P.J. Tucker (calf), Caleb Martin (ankle) and Markieff Morris (non-COVID illness) with that status.

Guard Kyle Lowry, however, has been ruled out for Game 1 with a hamstring injury.

Butler, 32, sat out Miami's first-round series-clinching win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 on Tuesday.

A six-time All-Star, Butler averaged 30.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the series against Atlanta.

Lowry, 36, averaged 8.3 points and 5.3 assists in three games versus the Hawks.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors

76ers' Joel Embiid out indefinitely with facial fracture, concussion

April 30, 2022, 1:47 AM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, one of the leading candidates for NBA Most Valuable Player, is sidelined indefinitely due to a fractured right orbital bone and a mild concussion.

The team announced Friday that Embiid will miss at least Game 1 of the 76ers' Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat on Monday.

Embiid got hurt with 3:58 left in the Sixers' clinching Game 6 against the host Toronto Raptors on Thursday. Philadelphia led 119-90 when Toronto's Pascal Siakam caught Embiid in the face with an elbow on a drive to the basket.

A five-time All-Star, Embiid has experienced a similar facial injury. In 2018, he fractured his left orbital bone and was sidelined for three weeks before returning to action in the playoff, wearing a facemask.

Embiid, 28, came away from the play holding his face as Toronto fans cheered, possibly in response to a play earlier in the game when Embiid shoved the Raptors' Chris Boucher in the back.

In the six games against Toronto, despite playing through a thumb injury, Embiid averaged 26.2 points and 11.3 rebounds. He sank a tiebreaking, turnaround 3-pointer to win Game 3 in the final second.

During the regular season, he averaged a league-leading 30.6 points and 11.4 boards.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers

76ers favored to close out Raptors in Toronto

April 28, 2022, 9:17 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors will try to take another step toward making history Thursday night when they play the visiting Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

After losing the first three games of the best-of-seven series, the Raptors have won the next two. No team in NBA history has won a playoff series after losing the first three games.

However, the 76ers are consensus 1.5-point favorites ahead of Game 6. The line did open at 2.0 at PointsBet but has since shifted despite Philadelphia drawing 58 percent of the spread handle.

The 76ers have been backed by 64 percent of the spread handle at BetMGM and 67 percent at DraftKings.

The Raptors posted a 103-88 win in Game 5 without Fred VanVleet (strained hip), overcoming his 20.3 points per game from the regular season with a strong defensive effort. He is listed as doubtful for Game 6.

Even with the Raptors missing a key player, the momentum shift in the series is palpable.

"Maybe there is, but it doesn't really matter," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "Ball goes up on Thursday, everybody's gotta play like heck."

Pascal Siakam led Toronto scorers with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while four others reached double figures in points during Game 5.

"They're doing a really good job of just finding some things offensively," Nurse said. "I think they feel really good down there. We're generating, for the most part, really good shots and they should feel good about that. They're just moving the pieces around and we've got a few principles we want to follow and they're doing a good job of it."

Joel Embiid, playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb, led Philadelphia with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

"I mean, it's the same recipe," Embiid said. "Don't turn the ball over, offensive rebounding. We definitely have to be better defensively, more connected defensively. I feel like there were a few plays (Monday) where we were not on point and we didn't have each other's backs. But we're fine. There's a reason why we won three games in a row."

Toronto's Precious Achiuwa, who scored 17 points in Game 5, has played an important role in limiting Embiid.

"I understand my assignment, so I just go out there and try to do it to the best of my ability," Achiuwa said. "Try to switch ball screens, stay on (Embiid) to disrupt the flow of his offense. Try to make him work, run. Space out the floor, hit wide-open jumpers, take him off the dribble, whatever I get on that side."

Nurse has been impressed with his backup forward.

"He feels like a more confident, different player to me," Nurse said of Achiuwa.

James Harden and Tyrese Maxey have struggled offensively for the 76ers.

"We have long, athletic guys, skilled, and we just tried to take advantage of every mismatch that we had," Achiuwa said.

Maxey, who scored 38 points in Game 1, was held to 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting in Game 5. Harden had 15 points in Game 5 on 4-of-11 shooting and also committed a game-high five turnovers.

The 76ers shot 38.3 percent (31 of 81) from the field Monday.

"We have to get James going downhill in some more actions that he likes and is more comfortable," 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. "You know, I just keep saying with Tyrese, we just have to get the ball in his hands more. We just do. I said it all game. He's just not getting the ball in transition enough. And that's on us."

Toronto held a 56-36 edge in points in the paint in Game 5.

"I just thought that they were the tougher team all night," Rivers said. "They were more physical all night. I thought they attacked us, we didn't attack back, we didn't get in the paint enough."

--Field Level Media

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat

Heat, F Jimmy Butler fined for obscene gesture

April 28, 2022, 6:29 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The NBA fined Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler $15,000 for making an obscene gesture and fined the team the same amount for sharing it as a GIF on social media.

The incident occurred near the Heat bench with 1:43 left in the second quarter in Tuesday night's Game 5 victory against the Atlanta Hawks.

Butler, 32, a six-time All-Star, was in street clothes for the game after being ruled out with right knee inflammation.

The Eastern Conference's top-seeded Heat won the contest, 97-94, and the series, 4-1, to move on to the second round of the playoffs.

Butler averaged 30.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.8 steals during the first four games of the first-round series.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Atlanta Hawks

Heat's Jimmy Butler (knee) ruled out for Game 5 vs. Hawks

April 26, 2022, 8:18 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler has been ruled out of Tuesday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first-round series against the visiting Atlanta Hawks because of right knee inflammation.

Butler, 32, erupted for 36 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals in the top-seeded Heat's 110-86 win over the eighth-seeded Hawks on Sunday. The victory gave Miami a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series.

A six-time All-Star, Butler is averaging 30.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the series.

--Field Level Media