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Philadelphia 76ers silence boos from home crowd to edge past Miami Heat and reach playoffs

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — The Philadelphia 76ers had to overcome some early boos from their own fans as they edged past the Miami Heat, 105-104, to clinch the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and book a playoff showdown with the New York Knicks.

Some sloppy play early on helped the Heat open up a 14-point lead near the end of the first half of the Play-In Tournament game, with the home fans making their displeasure known as the 76ers continued to give up cheap turnovers.

However, after struggling for three quarters, Joel Embiid came up big down the stretch, scoring 11 of his 23 total points in the fourth and helping the Sixers secure the comeback.

Embiid, the reigning league MVP, also added 15 rebounds and five assists, but the Sixers were kept in the game by veteran Frenchman Nicolas Batum, who had 20 points – including six three pointers – off the bench.

“It means a lot,” Embiid said of reaching the playoffs, per ESPN. “Being down a lot … we stuck together. It shows you that I don’t play my best, I don’t get to my spots the whole game until the fourth quarter and we still found a way to win.

“They like to make it nasty and we can do it, too, and we made it nasty, too.”

The 76ers were flying high in the Eastern Conference until Embiid underwent knee surgery back in February, with the team’s record falling off a cliff in the big man’s absence.

He returned to the court at the beginning of April after eight weeks out and the 76ers now boast a 32-8 record this season with Embiid on the floor.

However, after another unconvincing postseason performance, questions will likely continue to be asked about Philly’s championship aspirations with Embiid previously never making it past the conference semifinals.

Bigger problems for the Heat

On top of the Play-In defeat, the Miami Heat could now be without talisman Jimmy Butler who suffered an apparent knee injury during Wednesday’s contest.

Butler stayed down clutching his knee after a hard landing at the end of the first quarter, with Kelly Oubre Jr. also falling on top of him. He managed to finish the remainder of the game but was clearly hampered as he scored 19 points on just 27.8% shooting.

“I fell, he landed and my knee just didn’t do well, I guess,” Butler said, per ESPN. “I don’t know. It’s not a good feeling, I can tell you that.

“It felt like I couldn’t do too much, which sucks with the timing of the game and everything. I hope that I’m fine. I hope that I wake up tomorrow and can still stick-and-move. Right now, I can’t say that’s the case.”

Butler said he will undergo an MRI on Thursday, but reports from the Athletic and ESPN say the Heat are fearful he has an MCL injury.

It is now déjà vu for the Heat who, as they did last season, find themselves in an elimination Play-In game to try and secure the No. 8 seed.

The Heat will face the Chicago Bulls, who beat the Atlanta Hawks in Wednesday’s other play-in game, for a chance to face the overall No. 1 seeded Boston Celtics in the playoffs.

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