The #1 Miami Heat defeated the #4 Philadelphia 76ers 99-90 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, eliminating Philly from the 2022 NBA playoffs.
With the victory, the Heat won the series 4-2 and clinched a berth in the Eastern Conference finals for the second time in the past three seasons. Coming into the semifinals, the Heat were -350 favorites to win the series and the 76ers were +270 underdogs.
The Heat await the winner of the #2 Boston Celtics vs #3 Milwaukee Bucks series where the Bucks hold a 3-2 edge and have a chance to advance in Game 6 on Friday night.
The Heat are +450 odds to win the 2022 NBA Championship. You can back the Heat at +110 odds to win the Eastern Conference and return to the NBA Finals for a second time since 2020.
Can’t stop Jimmy Buckets
Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 32 points in the Game 6 road win for the Heat. He scored 32-plus points in three out of the previous four games and averaged 27.5 ppg this series.
“Now I’m where I belong,” said Butler. “Guess where I should have been a long time ago.”
Butler left the 76ers for the Heat after the 2019 season because he was too “alpha” for Ben Simmons. The 76ers kept Simmons and let Butler head to South Florida in a sign-and-trade. Three years later, everyone realizes the huge miscalculation because the 76ers kept the wrong guy.
“I still don’t know how we let Jimmy go,” said Joel Embiid. “I wish I could have gone to battle with him still.”
“Joel, my guy, my brother, my pick for MVP,” added Butler said. “It feels good to beat him. I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve got a lot of love for this city. A lot of love for guys in that locker room. So, any time you get to beat a former team, it’s special.”
“He’s one of the ultimate competitors in this profession,” said head coach Erik Spoelstra. “He was brilliant all series long. The challenges only get tougher here. He saw there was an opportunity to end this tonight and he wasn’t going to let this get to seven.”
Max Strus added 20 points on 6-for-14 shooting and four 3-pointers. He also added 11 rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes.
Tyler Herro added 10 points off the bench, but his long-range shooting woes continued when he missed both 3-point attempts, while connecting on 50% of his shots inside the arc.
Embiid: Critical of Harden, Timid Sixers
Embiid, the NBA’s leading scorer and MVP runner-up, scored 20 points in a losing effort. He missed the first two games of the series with a concussion and orbital fracture, and returned for Game 3 wearing a face mask after the 76ers fell into a 0-2 hole.
“I know I tried,” said an exhausted Embiid. “I think, for the most part, we tried. It just wasn’t good enough.”
The 76ers lost Danny Green to a gnarly knee injury a few minutes into Game 6. Despite being shorthanded, the 76ers kept the game close in the first half. The Heat pulled away in the third quarter with a 12-0 run and the 76ers failed to counterattack.
Tyrese Maxey added 20 points, but shot just 1-for-7 from 3-point range. James Harden scored all 11 of his points in the first half. He dished nine assists, but scored zero points in the second half, which drew some sharp criticism from Embiid considering it was a do-or-die elimination game.
“I’m sure since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden,” Embiid said. “But that’s not who he is anymore.”
“I came to the conclusion at the end of this game that we were not good enough to beat Miami,” said head coach Doc Rivers.
There’s huge speculation that the 76ers could fire Rivers or he could bolt to become the next head coach of the LA Lakers.
“At some point, you’ve got to stop looking at coaches and the front office,” added Embiid. “You’ve got to look at the players. Maybe we’re just not good enough.”
Check out more coverage of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.