Dwyane Wade turned in a vintage performance, scoring 28 points to end the 76ers’ 17-game winning streak and lead the Miami Heat to a 113-103 Game 2 win over Philadelphia on Monday night and even the first-round playoffs series.
Playing without injured All-Star center Joel Embiid for the 10th straight game, the Sixers nearly pulled off an epic comeback and rallied from 16 down to just two points late in the fourth.
Philly fans were going wild and suddenly the home-court edge that had made the Sixers unbeatable for a month seemed like it would perk the team back up for one more notch on the winning streak.
Wade buried two big buckets down the stretch that pushed back the Sixers and tied the series as it shifts to Miami for Game 3 on Thursday.
The Sixers lost to Indiana for the first time since March 13. They won 16 straight to end the regular season and the first game of the playoffs.
Wade’s play resembled his glory days at times and he carried the Heat in a sensational second quarter that was the difference. He pump faked his way to 15 points in the quarter – impressive enough, even more so that he outscored the potent Sixers by two points.
The 36-year-old Wade made his first seven shots of the game and passed Larry Bird for 10th on the NBA’s career postseason scoring list.
After a Game 1 victory where they couldn’t miss, the Sixers couldn’t make a big bucket in the first half. The Sixers made a team playoffs-record 18 threes in Game 1 and missed a whopping 16-of-18 threes in the first half. Robert Covington missed all five and Dario Saric was 0-for-4. The Sixers made four baskets and scored 13 points in the quarter.
The Heat slowed the game down – exactly the kind of style where the Sixers needed Embiid in the middle – and used a collective of defenders on Ben Simmons that rattled the rookie point guard early.
The passing-and-pushing offense that got the Sixers to the No 3 seed in the East failed them for the first time since early March.
But there was life left in the fourth.
Saric was fouled by Wade and sank both from the line to make it 91-82 and he followed with a three the next time down that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Saric broke up a pass on defense that led to a Simmons dunk and suddenly 18 straight wins were within reach.
Ersan Ilyasova made a tip shot to close on 98-96.
Wade contributed with baskets, assists and free-throws over the final four minutes to close out the win.
Simmons led the Sixers with 24 points and Saric had 23.
Heat: Goran Dragic scored 20 points and James Johnson had 18.
76ers: Philly native and Hollywood star Kevin Hart rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell and sat courtside a few seats down from Allen Iverson … Team consultant Jerry Colangelo was at the game.
Embiid wore his black mask and put on a 3-point shootout in pregame that had fans going wild with each shot. Again, there was no timetable on when Embiid would return this series, if at all.
”I can’t wait to get him back,” coach Brett Brown said. ”He, to me, is the difference maker. Joel Embiid changes the dynamics in many ways of this team. There will be a reintroduction of him back into the team.”
Ilysaova got the start at center for the first time in Embiid’s absence over Amir Johnson.
The 76ers held a moment of silence for Hall of Famer Hal Greer. Greer died Saturday after a brief illness. He was 81. He’s the 76ers’ career leader in points, field goals, field goals attempted, games and minutes played.
”He was a graceful man. He was class. He was a gentleman,” Brown said.
Game 3 is Thursday and Game 4 is Saturday in Miami.