Heat 76ers Basketball

Miami’s Max Strus, left, P.J. Tucker, center, and Bam Adebayo celebrate during the second half of a series-clinching 99-90 win Thursday over the 76ers in Philadelphia. Matt Slocum/Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — 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 quarter.

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 along 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.

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Harden scored all of his 11 points in the first half. He had four turnovers and four baskets.

Coach Doc Rivers implored his team to “fight for this!” in the huddle during the fourth. The 76ers just fell flat.

Max Strus had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat. Even another abysmal night from 3-point range – Miami missed 21 of 28 attempts – didn’t 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 in 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.

NOTES

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AWARDS: The NBA’s championship trophy has a new look, and the league will hand out some new trophies for the first time during these playoffs.

The league unveiled a slightly redesigned Larry O’Brien Trophy on Thursday, plus announced changes to the Bill Russell NBA finals MVP trophy and changes to the design of the conference championship trophies.

And four of the game’s legends now have their names on NBA hardware.

The Eastern Conference championship trophy has been renamed for Bob Cousy, the Western Conference championship trophy for Oscar Robertson. And for the first time, there will be MVP’s of the conference finals – the East finals MVP will receive the Larry Bird Trophy, the West finals MVP will receive the Magic Johnson Trophy.

The most visible change is to the Larry O’Brien, the trophy given to the NBA champions. The ball now tilts in a different direction, the netting is much more visible and the base is now round – two discs stacked atop one another, the first bearing the names of past champions, the second to bear the names of teams that win the title starting this year.

The conference finals MVP trophies awarded next month for the first time are similar to the Bill Russell trophy, which has a slightly different look as well. And the trophies presented to the East and West champions have new looks and new names – the Oscar Robertson Trophy goes to the West champion, the Bob Cousy Trophy to the East champion.

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GRIZZLIES: GM Zach Kleiman has been named the NBA basketball executive of the year, the youngest ever to win the award.

Kleiman, 33, is the second executive with the Grizzlies to receive the honor. Jerry West won the award for the 2003-04 season while working with the Grizzlies.

Kleiman became general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations in April 2019.

The Grizzlies’ GM received 16 of 29 first-place votes and earned 85 total points. Cleveland President Koby Altman and Chicago executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas tied for second. Phoenix GM James Jones and Miami President Pat Riley tied for fourth.

Kleiman put together the roster that had the NBA’s second-best record at 56-26, tying the franchise record for wins in a single season. The Grizzlies’ No. 2 seed in the Western Conference is the highest in franchise history.

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant started the All-Star Game and won the Most Improved Player Award. Taylor Jenkins finished second in voting for coach of the year. Kleiman hired Jenkins in 2019 and later drafted Morant with the No. 2 pick overall.

Kleiman first joined Memphis in 2015 as in-house legal counsel before being assistant general manager for the 2018-19 season. He worked at an international law firm before working for Memphis.


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