The Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat hope Friday wins result in momentum rather than exhausted energy levels when they meet Saturday night in South Florida.
The Eastern Conference contenders brushed aside serious challenges Friday, the 76ers holding off the visiting Boston Celtics 111-99, while the host Heat were rallying past the Atlanta Hawks 124-118.
Philadelphia will be looking for a ninth win in its last 10 games and Miami a fifth straight when the clubs, who have met in the Eastern playoffs twice in the past 10 years, square off for a second time this season.
The Heat prevailed in the earlier meeting 101-96 despite missing Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Starting Dewayne Dedmon at center, Miami held Joel Embiid to 17 points and rode Gabe Vincent’s 26 points to the front-running win.
Miami got 23 points from Butler, 12 from Dedmon in a backup role and a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double from new starting center Omer Yurtseven in Friday’s win over Atlanta, completing a two-game sweep of the Hawks.
The undrafted Yurtseven’s double-double continued his improbable run at NBA Rookie of the Year honors. He has recorded 10 or more rebounds in each of his last 13 games and double-figure points in seven of his last nine.
“He’s been a monster for us lately,” Butler boasted.
Yurtseven, who played a total of just 35 minutes in Miami’s first 20 games, contributed five points, four assists and three rebounds in 12 minutes as Dedmon’s backup in the earlier road win over the 76ers.
Embiid hasn’t been held even close to 17 points in his 12 games since. His 25 points in Friday’s win over the Celtics were his second-fewest since the Miami game, a stretch during which he’s averaged 31.9 points.
Due in part to a big early lead and the fact the 76ers were playing for the first time in two nights, Embiid stayed on the court just 32 minutes against the Celtics. The resulting 25 points snapped an eight-game run of 30-point outings, which tied a franchise record shared by Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson.
Embiid had eight of his 25 points in the first 1:34 of the game, during which the 76ers ran up a 26-12 lead and never looked back.
“I was aware of it, but was really not chasing it,” Embiid said of his opportunity to grab the record all to himself. “I don’t think I tried to force-feed and tried to get shots up. The main focus coming into tonight was getting the win.”
The win might have come at a cost for the 76ers, who lost defensive ace Matisse Thybulle to a shoulder injury. The club already was without Shake Milton, out with a sore back.
Meanwhile, the Heat remain without Adebayo, who hopes to return from thumb surgery later this month. He went head-to-head with Embiid just once last season, holding the 76ers star to six points in a Miami home win in May.
Embiid went for 45 points in an earlier home win over the Heat last season, a game in which Miami started Precious Achiuwa at center.
Miami has won its last four home games against Philadelphia dating back to November of 2018. The four wins have come by an average of 16.8 points.
–Field Level Media