Attrition got the best of the Philadelphia 76ers as their Eastern Conference series against the Miami Heat wore on.
The Heat’s grinding style made it even more difficult on a beat-up Sixers squad, and the result was a 4-2 series victory for the Heat, who finished off Philadelphia with a 99-90 victory in Game 6 on Thursday.
The Heat advance to the conference finals for the second time in three seasons and will play the winner of the Milwaukee-Boston series for a trip to the NBA Finals.
The Sixers, who as a team didn’t have much to give in the final two games of the series, once again fell short of the conference finals. In the past five seasons, they have lost in the first round once and conference semifinals four times.
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Here are five key takeaways from Game 6:
Butler the MVP of the playoffs so far?
Miami star Jimmy Butler had another big game on the road: 32 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal.
If you look at his overall production in 10 playoff games, you can make a case that Butler has been the best player in the postseason through two rounds. He was the best player on the court against the Sixers.
Butler is averaging 28.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 3.5 steals and shooting 52.5% from the field and 36.4% on 3-pointers in the playoffs.
Embiid played through the pain
Philadelphia star center Joel Embiid has a torn ligament in his right (shooting) thumb. He suffered a concussion and facial fracture in the first round. He took hits to his mask-covered face multiple times against the Heat. He clutched his back. He was not 100%, and it was going to be tough to beat Miami with Embiid not dominating.
“This is a lose-lose situation for me,” Embiid said this earlier this week. “If I don’t play, I’ll probably get called soft. If I play and I play bad, they’ll probably come up a bunch of stuff like, ‘He’s just not good enough.’ “
Neither of those things are true. Embiid is not soft, and he finished second in MVP voting. The All-NBA center gave everything he had in the series.
Embiid finished with 20 points (7-for-24 shooting) and 12 rebounds.
Strus struts his stuff
Heat guard Max Strus has developed into a capable offensive player — another guy the Heat have developed. He had 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
With Kyle Lowry (left hamstring strain) out for the second consecutive game, the Heat needed good guard play from Strus, Gabe Vincent and Tyler Herro (10 points).
The Sixers’ injury problems turned worse early in Game 6. After Embiid scored on a layup, he fell and crashed into Danny Green’s left leg, bending his lower leg in an unnatural way with 8:58 left in the first quarter. Green writhed in pain and after trying to walk, he was carried into the Sixers locker room. He didn’t return.
Green, who has won championships with the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, is 34 years old and has a non-guaranteed deal with the Sixers next season.
Not enough from Harden, Harris, Maxey
Tobias Harris (14 points), James Harden (11 points, nine assists, four rebounds) and Tyrese Maxey (20 points) didn’t/couldn’t deliver in the way Philadelphia needed.
Harden attempted nine shots from the field and just two in the second half. Harris’ stats looked OK, but they were empty calories in the end, and Maxey was 1-for-7 on 3-pointers.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.