Heat eliminate hampered 76ers to advance to East finals
"I came to the conclusion at the end of this game that we were just not good enough to beat Miami," 76ers coach Doc Rivers said following the 4-2 series defeat, per the Philly Voice's Kyle Neubeck.
Miami will now await the winner of the ongoing second-round clash between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. Milwaukee leads the series 3-2 with a chance to move on at home on Friday.
Coming off a second-place finish in MVP voting for the second straight year, 76ers center Joel Embiid finished with 20 points on 7-of-24 shooting and 12 rebounds, but was noticeably hampered by general fatigue and numerous injuries.
Immediately following the game, former 76ers star Jimmy Butler embraced ex-teammate Embiid. "I love him, I’m proud of him," Butler told ESPN. "Yes, yes, yes, I still wish I was on his team. I definitely love the Miami Heat though, man. I’m glad that I’m here. But I've got so much respect and love for Joel Embiid."
Butler led all scorers with 32 points in the win. Breakout shooting guard Max Strus chipped in 20 points and finished with a game-best plus-23 in 40 minutes of play. Center Bam Adebayo put up 10 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and a block but largely kept the 76ers' frontline at bay with his defensive contributions.
The 76ers’ hopes of extending the series took an early blow after the 280-pound Embiid inadvertently landed across teammate Danny Green's left leg in the first quarter. The veteran wing was carried off the court and was quickly ruled out from returning due to a knee injury.
The injury-marred 76ers didn't get much help from James Harden, who scored just 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting - his lowest scoring output of the playoffs. Harden was a minus-16 in 43 minutes of play, second-worst on the team behind only second-year guard Tyrese Maxey (minus-24).
For his part, Harden, who has a $47.4-million player option for the 2022-23 season and shot just 40.5% from the floor in the playoffs, said he will return to play with the 76ers next year.