In the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, Meek Mill watched from courtside as the Philadelphia 76ers wrapped up a 4-1 series win over Miami to progress following a 104-91 victory.
J.J. Redick scored 27 points and Joel Embiid weighed in with 19 as the Sixers set up a second round meeting against either Boston or Milwaukee.
Philly favourite, Meek Mill, who was released from prison on Tuesday just two hours before tip-off, was collected from state prison by Sixers owner Michael Rubin’s helicopter and brought straight to the game.
The Philadephia franchise even extended the opportunity to the rapper of ringing the bell before the game.
Meek Mill rings the pregame Liberty Bell in Philly. pic.twitter.com/tWXPLBxXgY
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) April 25, 2018
A fiercely contested duel at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center was effectively settled in the third quarter, when the Sixers pulled clear to take a decisive lead.
Prior to that there had been little to separate the two sides, with Miami holding the hosts 46-46 at halftime.
But the Sixers surged into a 66-54 lead after Robert Covington’s three-pointer with 6:11 remaining in the third period.
It was the latest evidence of a remarkable turnaround at the Sixers, who just two years ago had the worst record in the NBA, with just 10 wins against 72 defeats.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said the team was reaping the benefit of a long-term rebuilding strategy.
“I was hired in 2013 and I sat with a few of the owners and we talked about the vision and what we hoped to build,” Brown said.
“And through rough times, through adversity, we didn’t blink. We stayed strong in what we were trying to do. And we’ve got more to do.
“We’ve got more to give. We’re excited for sure.”
Meanwhile Boston edged into a 3-2 series lead after beating Milwaukee 92-87.
Al Horford scored 22 points, 14 rebounds and three assists to lead the scoring for Boston.
Khris Middleton led the scoring for the Bucks with 23 points while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Jabari Parker had 17 points and eight rebounds.
Game six takes place in Milwaukee on Thursday.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits from Richard Barrett).
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