Philadelphia (AFP) – Jimmy Butler knocked Joel Embiid From the playoffs, he then turned to his former 76er teammate and hugged him, telling him he loved him and was proud of him.
Then Butler emerged from a familiar court a winner – and straight to the finals of another conference with Miami.
“Now I am where I belong,” Butler said. “Guess where I should have been a long time ago.”
Butler scored 32 points and waved “goodbye” to the Philly fans as he sent Miami into the Eastern Conference Finals with a 99-90 victory over Philadelphia Thursday night in Game Six.
The Heat will play the winner of the Milwaukee-Boston series. The reigning Bucks leads that series 3-2, with Game 6 Friday night in Milwaukee.
The Heat reached the Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons, once again with Butler leading the charge. Philly fans — and many within the 76ers organization — still couldn’t believe the franchise let Butler get away after the 2019 season. He didn’t mess around and scored 14 points on 6 of 9 in the third quarter when the Heat used a 16-2 run for control. Butler scored 33 points in Game 3, 40 in Game 4 and took 29 shots in Game Six.
“I think he’s one of the ultimate contenders in this career,” said coach Eric Spoelstra. “He’s been great throughout every series. It’s only here that the challenges get tougher. He saw a chance to finish tonight and wouldn’t let that get to seven.”
Embiid, the NBA champion, didn’t have much help and scored 20 points with 12 rebounds in a 7 of 24 shot.
“I know I tried. I think we tried most of the time,” Embiid said. “It wasn’t good enough.”
Embiid remains to this day bewildered and in pain as the Sixers passed on Butler after forming a three-way with the Simmons that – regardless of self – had been contending for championships for years.
“I still don’t know how we let him go,” Embiid said. “I wish I had gone to battle with him.”
After winning 35 points in Game 5, the Heat wore the exhausted Sixers. Embiid looked gassed up as he valiantly tried to carry the crackers. He had a little leverage and he had a pull-jump blocking it Pam Adebayo In the third group.
The Sixers broke up with Butler in large part because they chose to Ben Simmons As a keystone ball wizard. Simmons was unhappy and forced into a deal this season with Brooklyn James Harden. Harden, the three-time scoring champ, was supposed to shoulder the brunt with Embiid for a boost in the post-season. Instead Harden disappeared into the playoffs. He had a great 4 home game against Miami but other than that it was a spinning machine. When he lost another ball that led to the Bucket Heat and went 80-63 in the fourth inning, the Sixers were booed off the field.
Harden scored all 11 of his first-half points. He had four spins and four baskets. Harden, who has a $47.4 million player option in 2022-23, missed both hits in the second half and scored his last basket at the 3:31 mark of the second quarter.
Few in Philly give the beard a passing score. Harden said he will return next season.
“I’m sure since we got it, everyone expected Houston James HardenEmbiid said. “But that’s not what it is anymore.”
Coach Doc Rivers pleaded with his team to “fight for this!” In the assembly during the fourth. The 76ers have fallen flat.
“I came to the conclusion at the end of this game that we weren’t good enough to beat Miami,” Rivers said.
Rivers was signed during the 2024-25 season and another early exit — the 76ers were the top seed last year and lost in the second round — and his career status has been a hot topic of debate.
“I don’t worry about my job. I think I’m doing a great job. If you don’t, you should write it down,” Rivers said. “Because I worked my ass to get this team here. When I first got here, no one chose us to be anywhere. Again this year, same thing. If that’s how anyone feels, write it down. I will feel safe about it. “
Max Strauss scored 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat. Even another terrible night of 3-point range – Miami missed 21 out of 28 – failed to matter.
Embiid has once again pulled out the post-season game in his mask (right orbital fracture) and will have surgery on the torn ligaments in his right thumb. He was only allowed to return last week from a concussion. He grabbed the back of his head after hitting him on the court after falling late in the second quarter. Embiid is still playing 22 minutes in the first half and scored 14 points.
“Joel, my man. My brother. Who would I pick for the best player,” Butler said. “It feels good to beat him. I’m not gonna lie to you. I have so much love for this city. Lots of love for the guys in that locker room. So any time you beat a previous team, it’s special.”
Embiid missed the first two games of the series as he recovered from a concussion. The Sixers lost both games in Miami. Could a healthy Embiid have made a difference? Probably not, but it’s still another abrupt ending for an All-Star cornerstone who has yet to get a taste of the conference final. He might have played in one or two games if Butler had stayed.
“At some point, you have to stop looking at the coaches and the front office,” Embiid said. “You have to look at the players. Maybe we’re not good enough.”
Embiid is still looking at the person who left him in Miami. There are no hard feelings, the NBA is business, Butler said, wearing black sunglasses and a black bucket hat.
“It didn’t work,” Butler said. “I’m not complaining. I love being in Miami.”
the heat: Kyle Lowry He sat again with his left hamstring hurt. He paced the Heat’s streak like a coach and called up teammates during free throws and other on-the-job breaks to talk about strategy.
76ers: Danny Green He left in the first quarter with a serious left knee injury. Embiid climbed up in search of a bucket and fell on Green as they went down to the court. Green, who has averaged 5.9 points this season, grabbed his leg and walked off the field.
Heat: She is 7-1 in a 6-second closing match since 2006. …they win their 30th playoff series.
76ers: Haven’t advanced to the second round since 2001.