Heat beat 76ers in Game 6 to advance to East finals
Mavericks force Game 7 with blowout win over Suns
Jimmy Butler scored 32 points and waved "bye bye" to the Philly crowd as he sent the Miami Heat into the Eastern Conference finals with a 99-90 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night in Game 6.
The Heat will play the winner of the Milwaukee-Boston series. The defending champion Bucks lead that series 3-2, with Game 6 on Friday night in Milwaukee.
The Heat reached the conference finals for the second time in three seasons, again with Butler leading the charge. Philly fans — and many inside the 76ers organization — still can't believe the franchise let Butler get away after the 2019 season. He did not mess around and scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the third quarter when the Heat used a 16-2 run to take control.
Joel Embiid, the NBA scoring champion, scored 20 points for Philadelphia on 7-of-24 shooting.
Coming off a 35-point victory in Game 5, the Heat wore down a battered Sixers team. Embiid looked gassed as he gamely tried to carry the Sixers. He had little lift and had a pull-up jumper blocked by Bam Adebayo in the third.
The Sixers parted with Butler in large part because they chose Ben Simmons over him. Simmons was unhappy and forced a trade this season to Brooklyn for James Harden. Harden, a three-time scoring champion, was supposed to shoulder the load with Embiid for a potent postseason push. Harden instead all but disappeared in the playoffs. He had a fantastic Game 4 at home against Miami but otherwise was a turnover machine. When he lost another ball that led to a Heat bucket and an 80-63 lead in the fourth, the Sixers were booed off the court.
Harden scored all of his 11 points in the first half. He had four turnovers and four baskets.
Few in Philly would give The Beard a passing grade.
Coach Doc Rivers implored his team to "fight for this!" in the huddle during the fourth. The 76ers just fell flat.
The Heat are thrilled with an NBA championship still in play. Max Strus had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Even another abysmal night from 3-point range — Miami missed 21 of 28 attempts —- failed to matter.
Embiid again gutted out a postseason game in his mask (right orbital fracture) and with torn ligaments in his right thumb after he was only cleared to return last week from a concussion. He held the back of his head after he knocked it on the court after a fall late in the second quarter. Embiid still played 22 minutes in the first half and scored 14 points.
Embiid missed the first two games of the series as he recovered from the concussion. The Sixers lost both games in Miami. Would a healthy Embiid have made a difference? Maybe not but it's still another sudden end to the All-Star cornerstone who has yet to taste a conference final.
Mavericks rout Suns to force Game 7
Luka Doncic scored 33 points and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Phoenix Suns 113-86 on Thursday night to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference semifinals.
The home team has won all six games, none with a final margin closer than seven points. The deciding game is Sunday in Phoenix.
The Mavericks won when facing elimination for the first time in three tries with Doncic, their three-time All-Star.
The two losses came against the Clippers the past two seasons, including Game 7 in Los Angeles last year after the visitors won the first six games, a first in the playoffs. Dallas is playing beyond the first round for the first time since winning the title 11 years ago.
The Suns, seeking a second consecutive trip to the West finals, are going the distance in a series for the first time in two postseasons with Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The previous three went six, including Phoenix's loss to Milwaukee last year in the NBA Finals.
Booker scored 19 points but was shut out from 3-point range (0 of 4) while going 6 of 17. Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Paul added 13 points.
The top-seeded Suns were held to a season low in scoring, regular season or playoffs, for the second time in the series.
Reggie Bullock scored 19 points and Jalen Brunson added 18 for Dallas. Spencer Dinwiddie had a series-high 15, all on 3s (5 of 7).
Doncic played through an apparent left leg injury that sent him to the locker room when he would have been out of the game anyway in the second quarter. He returned to the bench and rode a stationary bike before re-entering the game.
Soon after, the Mavericks went on a decisive 19-5 run to finish the first half, turning a two-point lead into a 60-45 halftime edge.
It was a home-team replay of the third quarter from Game 5, when Phoenix went on a 17-0 run for an 18-point lead and ended up winning by 30.
Doncic, who had 11 rebounds and eight assists, fought his shot while fighting the injury early, but had a 3 on the late first-half run and scored 10 in the third to help the Mavericks push their lead to 22 (94-72).
Paul mostly avoided the problems with turnovers and fouls that cost the Suns in the first two losses in Dallas. But the 37-year-old point guard was never much of a factor, getting just seven shots.
Booker was stuck on eight points while Dallas pulled away in the second and third quarters, opening the second half with a miss on an ill-advised 3 and not scoring again until the Suns were down 21 late in the third.