By TIM REYNOLDS
MIAMI (AP) — Everything is to Miami’s taste right now. The Heat are at home for most of the month, they’re enjoying their biggest cushion of the season atop the Eastern Conference, and they’ve added some distance between themselves and Philadelphia.
They are also about to deepen.
Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler each scored 21 points, and the Heat pulled out in the fourth quarter to beat the 76ers 99-82 on Saturday night. It was Miami’s 11th win in its last 13 games, putting the Heat three games behind the second-placed 76ers in the East.
“Satisfied with where we are now,” Herro said. “I have to keep improving.”
Help is on the way. Victor Oladipo – who has been recovering from leg surgery for most of the year – watched from the Heat bench on Saturday night, in street clothes for perhaps the last time this season. He would like to make his season debut on Monday against Houston.
“I can’t do anything but make us a lot better,” Heat forward Caleb Martin said. “That’s what’s scary.”
Gabe Vincent scored 16 points and Martin added 14 for the Heat, which is 11-2 in its last 13 games. Miami was again without Kyle Lowry, who missed his fourth straight game for personal reasons.
“These are good steps for our team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ll just have to try and keep improving and stepping forward as we get the guys back to full fitness and Kyle gets back into the mix.”
Joel Embiid finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds for Philadelphia, which held off James Harden on the second straight night as he recovered from a left hamstring injury. The 76ers had a season low in points and fell to 1-14 in scoring under 100 points.
Tyrese Maxey added 17 points for the 76ers, who snapped a five-game winning streak. Tobias Harris added 16 for Philadelphia.
It was the first time since a three-game streak in mid-December where Philadelphia trailed by 20 in consecutive outings. The 76ers trailed by 21 against Cleveland on Friday night before rallying to win 125-119.
The biggest deficit on Saturday was 20, with Miami taking a 40-20 advantage on a 3-pointer from Martin with 8:03 left in the half. Philadelphia went on a 12-2 run to cut the margin in half over the next 3 minutes, but Miami ended up taking a 54-40 lead into the break.
“We have to go back to starting fast and rolling the ball fast,” Maxey said.
The win gave Miami (43-22) a season lead in the Eastern Conference over the second-place 76ers (39-24), with Milwaukee and Chicago (both 39-25) 3 games away and half.
“I really don’t look at the standings,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “What do they matter? You must win. And I swear to God that after 82 years, someone is going to pat me down and say, ‘That’s who you play.’ … You can only control what you can control. The other things are for everyone to talk about.
An 11-2 run in the third put Philadelphia within two, before Vincent made a 3-pointer to end the quarter and send Miami into the final 12 minutes with a 73-68 lead.
Miami then beat Philadelphia 26-14 in the fourth.
Miami went 3-1 this week against four Eastern contenders, beating Chicago, Brooklyn and now Philadelphia. The only loss was in Milwaukee, a game where the Heat led by 14 midway through the fourth quarter before collapsing.
“Those last four have been good for us,” Herro said.
76ers: Philadelphia stayed 12 shy of 3,000 all-time wins, a milestone only the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have achieved. … Embiid got his ninth rebound with 3 seconds left in the first quarter. He didn’t get his 10th until 9:05 into the third quarter.
Heat: Duncan Robinson’s first 3-pointer of the night was the 713th of his career, breaking a tie with Eddie Jones and moving him to No. 2 on Miami’s all-time list. Tim Hardaway holds the club record with 806, something Robinson has a chance of reaching before the end of the season. … Heat managing general partner Micky Arison was among those at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday for Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game at Duke. Heat CEO Nick Arison was Duke’s manager during his college years there.
Embiid beat a stray bullet in the third quarter and ended up slapping Butler — his former Philadelphia teammate — on the side of the head, a play that didn’t seem intentional. Embiid went to Butler and apologized, but still received a technique.
STAY AT HOME
It was the opener of a streak where Miami plays 11 of 12 games at home. The Heat play one road game by March 30 — Philadelphia on March 21. Miami has now played 29 home games this season, tied for least in the league with Orlando, Houston and Denver. The Heat also have just five games left on the road, also tied for least in the league with Orlando.
76ers: Host Chicago on Monday.
Heat: Host Houston on Monday.
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