Not easy. But over.
Dwyane Wade scored 26 points, Chris Bosh added 22 points and 11 rebounds, and the Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals by topping Philadelphia, 97-91, last night in Miami, ousting the 76ers in five games.
Mario Chalmers scored 20 points off the bench and LeBron James finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists for Miami. Joel Anthony made a pair of free throws with 16.8 seconds left for the Heat, who will face Boston in Game 1 Sunday afternoon in Miami.
It’s the first series win for the Heat since the 2006 NBA Finals.
“We’re going to be ready,’’ Wade said. “Philly got us ready.’’
Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand each scored 22 points for Philadelphia, which got 13 points from Thaddeus Young, 12 from Jodie Meeks, and 10 from Jrue Holiday.
And like four of the other five games in the series, it wasn’t easy for the Heat, who saw a double-digit lead cut to 1 in the final minute before hanging on.
Philadelphia had a chance to tie with 1:10 left, but Evan Turner’s baseline jumper bounced off the rim and James grabbed his 10th rebound — marking the first time the Heat had three double-digit rebounders in the same playoff game since the title-clinching Game 6 of the 2006 Finals at Dallas.
Wade made a 3-pointer with 8:34 left, pumped his fist on his way up the sideline, and Miami was ahead, 81-71. He crossed Iguodala over twice for baskets later in the period, each of those giving the Heat 8-point leads.
Philadelphia simply would not go away. The Sixers got within 2 on three occasions and, helped by a technical foul assessed by Steve Javie against Wade with 51 seconds left, cut Miami’s lead to 1 point at 90-89 and again at 92-91.
Anthony swished a pair of free throws with 16.8 seconds left, restoring the 3-point edge. Iguodala missed on Philadelphia’s next possession, and Miami finally escaped.
“We fought to the finish,’’ Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said, “as we said we were going to do.’’
Wade capped it with a dunk with a half-second left, as white seat covers got tossed around the arena triumphantly by the sellout crowd. Collins and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra shared a handshake moments later, most of the players exchanged quick hugs, and then Miami retreated back to its locker room for what was surely a quick celebration.
After all, Boston awaits.
“Looking forward to it,’’ James said.
Collins said “it’ll be interesting’’ to see what Spoelstra does in the next round when it comes to Miami’s lineup. Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas only played 4:27 apiece, benched the rest of the way after another slow start, and Chalmers and Anthony started the second half.
Collins also acknowledged being emotional in Philadelphia’s postgame locker room.
“I’ve enjoyed the ride all year,’’ said Collins, who plans to return if the Sixers want him.
Much of Miami’s emphasis Tuesday and before the game yesterday was on starting more quickly. Still, for the fourth time in five games, Philadelphia had Miami in a double-digit hole in the opening quarter.
The Sixers made nine of their first 11 shots, running out to leads of 16-5 and 20-10 — before, as was the case throughout the series, the first substitutions for Miami started paying dividends.
Chalmers made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in 7 1/2 minutes off the bench in the first quarter, his scoring total matching the combined efforts from Wade, James, and Bosh in the period. Philadelphia missed eight of its final nine shots of the quarter, and Miami peeled off 14 straight points before settling on a 27-23 lead going into the second.
Spurs 110, Grizzlies 103 — Gary Neal caught an inbounds pass with 1.7 seconds left and forced overtime with a 3-point heave as time expired, and host San Antonio staved off elimination by stunning Memphis in overtime.
Neal’s straightaway 3-pointer was the second of two remarkable San Antonio baskets in the final 2.2 seconds of regulation. Manu Ginobili, who scored 33 points, hit the other with a long corner jumper while falling out of bounds to keep top-seeded San Antonio alive.
The eighth-seeded Grizzlies lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and they will host the Spurs tomorrow night.
But the Grizzlies will likely go home thinking they missed a knockout punch.
Only eight teams in NBA history have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit.
Thunder 100, Nuggets 97 — Kevin Durant matched his best playoff performance with 41 points, including the final 9 for Oklahoma City, and the Thunder closed out their first-round series against visiting Denver with a victory in Game 5.
The Thunder overcame a 9-point deficit in the final four minutes, and Durant provided all the offense down the stretch to send the Oklahoma City franchise to its first playoff series win since it was still in Seattle in 2005.
Durant put the Thunder ahead to stay on two free throws with 46 seconds left. Serge Ibaka then swatted Nene’s dunk attempt for his ninth block.
Durant then added a 19-foot jumper to put the Thunder up, 100-97, with 12 seconds left.