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Jimmy Butler scores 32 points vs. Sixers; Heat advance to Eastern Conference finals

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Jimmy Butler scores 32 points vs. Sixers; Heat advance to Eastern Conference finals


Jimmy Butler stamped his former team’s collective ticket to Cancun and a summer of uncertainty, while the Miami Heat are headed back to the Eastern Conference finals.

Butler finished off a dominant series against the 76ers with 32 points and the Heat took Game 6 of this semifinal, 99-90. The Heat won the last two games convincingly to take the series, 4-2.

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Philadelphia, seemingly snake-bitten all year by an All-Star who refused to play and an MVP runner-up who got hurt at the worst time, has contract decisions to make on James Harden and may also consider whether to part ways with coach Doc Rivers.

Joel Embiid, who didn’t even appear in this series until Game 3 because of a broken orbital bone and concussion, led the Sixers with 20 points and 12 boards, but shot just 7-of-24 from the field. He was playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb that will require surgery.

Miami, the top seed in the East, needs four more wins to reach its sixth Finals, and eight for its fourth NBA championship. This is Miami’s second Eastern finals berth in the last three seasons and it will host the winner of the Boston-Milwaukee series either Sunday or Tuesday for Game 1.

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Butler was a 76er in 2019 and eager to sign a new contract in Philadelphia that summer, but felt unwanted by Sixers management and took his talents to South Beach. He and Philadelphia star Joel Embiid remain close friends – Embiid continues to say letting Butler get away was a “mistake” – and the Sixers paid for it in the conference semifinals.

This was Butler’s third game of at least 30 points in the series – all of them coming at the Philadelphia arena he used to call home. He added eight rebounds and four assists on Thursday, and scored 14 points in a third quarter where the Heat took over a game it had led by just one (49-48) at halftime. He averaged 27.5 points for the series and shot 13-of-29 in Game 6, overcoming a 3-of-10 start.

Max Strus, an undrafted player seeing the first meaningful postseason minutes of his career, was strong again with 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. P.J. Tucker added 12 points and nine rebounds, and Bam Adebayo, who bothered Embiid all night, contributed 10 points and eight boards. His steal and dunk with 4:57 left in the third quarter gave the Heat a 68-52 lead and drew a cascade of boos from the home crowd.

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Harden, whom the Sixers acquired for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks, went scoreless in the second half on just two shots and finished with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He has a $47.4 million player option on his contract. The Sixers could offer him an even more lucrative extension and have sacrificed too much to let him walk — but both sides were hoping for more than they’ve gotten out of their partnership so far.

Rivers had three years and more than $24 million left on his contract, but the Sixers have lost in the second round in each of the last two seasons – fueling speculation that he could be in trouble. Tyrese Maxey scored 20 for the Sixers.

The Sixers lost starting two-guard Danny Green to an apparent serious knee injury with 8:54 left in the first quarter. Embiid stumbled while crashing for a rebound and fell into Green’s left knee, causing it to buckle as Green crumpled to the court in immediate pain. He was carried to the locker room and almost immediately ruled out for the remainder of the game.

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(Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)





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