The Miami Heat took a 2-0 series lead over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night after closing out Game 2 in South Beach with a 119-103 win. Miami received balanced scoring from up and down their lineup throughout the win but it was Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo who led the way with 45 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists combined.
On the other side, the 76ers were led by James Harden and Tyrese Maxey but, in the end, their combined 54 points, 10 assists and seven assists were not enough to overcome what the Heat were able to do on both ends of the floor. With the win, Miami moves two wins away from clinching a spot in the Eastern Conference finals against either the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Heat take care of business
The Heat caught a huge break when the Sixers announced that Joel Embiid had suffered a broken orbital bone and a concussion during Game 6 against the Toronto Raptors, and would be sidelined for the start of the second round. At the same time, the MVP candidate's absence put a lot of pressure on the Heat. They had to take care of business and prevent the Sixers from stealing a game before Embiid returned.
That's just what they did, winning the first two games at home in convincing fashion. While they could never quite pull away in Game 2 on Wednesday night, they were also never seriously threatened. They led from the end of the first quarter on, and spent most of that time up by double digits. That's exactly what the No. 1 seed should do.
The Heat now have a commanding 2-0 series lead and have put the Sixers in a real hole. Embiid's status for the rest of the series is still up in the air, but even if he does return at some point, the Sixers are going to have to win four of the next five games, including at least one in Miami. That's bad news against a Heat team that is undefeated at home in the playoffs and was an Eastern Conference-best 29-12 at home in the regular season.
2. Herro, Oladipo lead Miami's bench attack
Among the Heat's many positive qualities is their depth. They draft well, have arguably the best player development team in the league and are constantly finding players that other teams overlooked. Even with Kyle Lowry out injured and $90 million man Duncan Robinson out of the rotation, head coach Erik Spoelstra was comfortable playing nine different guys in a second-round playoff game.
The importance of having that depth has been especially obvious in this series. Embiid is obviously a bigger loss than Lowry, but while the Sixers flounder to find an answer without their star man, the Heat just keep chugging along. In Game 2, the difference was stark: the Heat's bench outscored the Sixers' unit 52-19.
Leading the way as per usual was Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro, who started off on fire and played a big role in the Heat's first-quarter surge to take the lead for good. He finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and proved once again that he's a reliable scoring option for this team. The Heat also got a big night from Victor Oladipo, who put up 19 points and six rebounds on 6 of 11 from the field. While he hasn't been super consistent since his return from injury, even a few nights like this here and there will be a big boost to the Heat through the remainder of the playoffs.
3. Maxey a bright spot for the Sixers
With Joel Embiid sidelined for the second straight game, the Sixers needed everyone else to step up if they wanted a chance to steal Game 2. In the end, they didn't quite have enough juice. The defense was not good enough, James Harden was just solid, Danny Green went 1 of 10 and they got almost nothing from the bench.
There was one bright spot, however: Tyrese Maxey. The second-year guard has been super impressive during the postseason, and put together one of his best performances yet in Game 2. He played over 43 minutes and poured in a game-high 34 points on 12 of 22 from the field.
While he couldn't win the game on his own, his scoring was the only thing keeping the Sixers within striking distance for most of the night. Regardless of whether the Sixers are able to make a comeback in this series, Maxey's play over the past few weeks is an encouraging sign moving forward. He has not been afraid of the moment one bit and has had some huge nights against elite defenses.