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James Harden breaks out in 76ers’ Game 4 win over Heat

James Harden breaks out in 76ers’ Game 4 win over Heat
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James Harden breaks out in 76ers’ Game 4 win over Heat

James Harden breaks out in 76ers’ Game 4 win over Heat

PHILADELPHIA — James Harden scored 31 points, Joel Embiid had 24 points and 11 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat 116-108 on Sunday night in Game 4 to even the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The Heat won the first two games in Miami with Embiid out with a right orbital fracture and mild concussion. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 at home with Embiid and his mask in the lineup.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Miami.

Embiid is ready. So is Harden. And if the Heat can’t figure out those two, the next thing they face could be the offseason.

The Heat pecked away at the lead and got within five until Harden sank his fifth 3-pointer of the game with three minutes left. Harden crushed the Heat on catch-and-shoot 3s and hit one clutch shot after another in the fourth.

He at last played in the postseason like the three-time scoring champion the Sixers needed when they traded for him in February.

James Harden reacts during the 76ers' Game 4 win over the Heat.
James Harden reacts during the 76ers’ Game 4 win over the Heat.
Getty Images

Harden drilled a step-back 3 for a 114-103 lead that sent the crowd into a frenzy — and the Sixers off to Miami with new life.

Jimmy Butler scored 40 points and nearly one-man willed the Heat to victory. The Heat missed 28 of 35 3-pointers.

Embiid worked out the Game 3 cobwebs and returned to the dominant form that earned him season-long “MVP!” chants from the Philly diehards. His first quarter was about as good as it gets for the center. He made 5 of 6 shots, including a 3-pointer, and scored 15 points to put the Sixers ahead. Worn out in Game 3 from days of inactivity because of the concussion, Embiid played all 12 minutes in the quarter.

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James Harden finished with a game-high 31 points.
James Harden finished with a game-high 31 points.
NBAE via Getty Images

“He’s really weathering the storm and getting through stuff,” coach Doc Rivers said before the game.

Harden took over the next quarter. After a scoreless first quarter, Harden scored 13 in the second. He missed his first four shots of the game until he buried a 3 and then got rolling. He scored a bucket in transition during a 15-2 run and then waved his arms toward the crowd, calling on the to get louder.

Philadelphia shot 64% from the floor in the half. But 10 turnovers — that Miami converted into 13 points — kept the Sixers from stretching the lead well into double digits. The Sixers made nine 3s in the half to Miami’s four.

Jimmy Butler dribbles during the Heat's loss to the 76ers.
Jimmy Butler dribbles during the Heat’s loss to the 76ers.
NBAE via Getty Images

Butler kept the Heat in the game with six straight points. He hit a layup, was nailed in the face by Embiid — who was whistled for a flagrant, then helped his former teammate to his feet — and Butler made the free throw. Butler hit a 3 off the possession and the Heat pulled to 74-70.

Butler drew Embid’s third foul with 1:37 left in the third and converted the three-point play that kept the Heat within four. Butler trolled Embiid on Instagram after the Sixers posted a picture of him in the mask and quoted a line from “The Dark Knight Rises.”

”(Expletive) yo mask,” Butler wrote.

Butler scored 17 points in the third, yet the Heat still trailed 89-85. The 76ers fans let him have it when Butler fired an airball in the fourth and Harden came right down and nailed a steptback 3 for a 97-85 lead.

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