PHILADELPHIA – Tyrese Maxey scored 13 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, including nine in a row during a crucial stretch, and the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers — without stars Joel Embiid and James Harden — beat the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat 113-106 on Monday night.
Shake Milton scored 20 points and Furkan Korkmaz added 18 for Philadelphia, which pulled within 2½ games of the Heat in the conference. Embiid sat out with back soreness and Harden with left hamstring tightness.
Jimmy Butler scored 27, Bam Adebayo had 22 and Kyle Lowry 20 for Miami, which lost for just the fifth time in the last 20 games.
Maxey took over the final 2½ minutes with the game on the line. In a contest that was tight from the tip, Philadelphia was clinging to a two-point lead when Maxey scored on a drive, was fouled and made the free throw for a 106-101 lead with 2:18 left.
After Butler missed a 3-point try, Maxey hit a step-back 3 for a 109-101 lead. Lowry and Tyler Herro couldn’t convert on the other hand, and the second-year guard from Kentucky drained another 3, this time for a 112-101 lead with 1:03 to play that brought “MAX-EY! MAX-EY!” chants from the sold-out crowd which usually reserves the loudest cheers for Embiid.
Maxey wasn’t done.
After the Heat stole a Philadelphia inbound pass with the 76ers up six points, Maxey raced down the court and blocked Caleb Martin’s attempt with 21 seconds remaining — resulting in more “MAX-EY! MAX-EY!” chants.
Philly fans are used to chanting this season, but it’s usually “M-V-P! M-V-P!” for Embiid.
Embiid entered Monday tied with LeBron James for the NBA lead in scoring (29.8 ppg). The five-time All-Star, who is one of the frontrunners for the MVP award, has played in 58 games this season. He has made playing regularly a priority this season. The sixth-year center hasn’t played more than 64 games in a season. He missed nine contests in November due to health and safety protocols.
Harden has averaged 22.4 points, 10.5 assists and 7.0 rebounds in 11 games with the 76ers since being acquired from Brooklyn for Ben Simmons in a blockbuster trade last month. But the hamstring injury kept Harden off the court in his final four games with the Nets and first four with the 76ers. Since then, the 10-time All-Star and former MVP has played in 11 of 12 games, missing only the 76ers’ 99-82 defeat at Miami on March 5.
He didn’t play in the rematch, either, a potential Eastern Conference final preview.
“We’re just being careful,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said before the game.
Rivers said Harden did not suffer a setback in his hamstring recovery.
The 76ers started Paul Millsap in place of Embiid and Georges Niang for Harden.
Neither Embiid nor Harden looked right in Sunday night’s 93-88 home loss to Toronto. Embiid scored 21 points but needed 20 shots, missing 14, and failed to connect on any of his three 3-point tries. Harden had 17 points but went 5 for 12 from the field, including 0 for 4 from beyond the arc, and committed six turnovers. With the game on the line, Harden couldn’t deliver in crunch time, missing two free throws late and committing a Flagrant 1 offensive foul on another possession.
The star duo’s next opportunity to return to the court will be in Los Angeles on Wednesday, when the 76ers begin a three-game trip against the Lakers.
Heat: Gabe Vincent (bruised toe) and Victor Oladipo (lower back spasms) didn’t play.
Heat: Begin four-game homestand on Wednesday against Golden State.
76ers: Open three-game Western trip against the Lakers on Wednesday.
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