Jimmy Butler scored 32 points, Max Strus added 20 points and 11 rebounds and the top-seeded Miami Heat defeated the host Philadelphia 76ers 99-90 to capture the Eastern Conference semifinals in six games on Thursday.
P.J. Tucker contributed 12 points while Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro scored 10 apiece for the Heat, who will face either the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat, who played without Kyle Lowry (hamstring) for the second consecutive game, advanced to the conference finals for the second time in three seasons.
“We’re not scared of nobody,” Butler said postgame on ESPN. “Everybody has been prepared for this all year.”
Joel Embiid, who was playing with an orbital fracture and a torn ligament in his right thumb, led the fourth-seeded Sixers with 20 points and 12 rebounds but struggled with his shooting, going 7 of 24.
Tyrese Maxey added 20 points, Shake Milton scored 15 and Tobias Harris contributed 14 for the Sixers, who lost in the semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years. James Harden scored 11 and none in the second half.
Danny Green played only three minutes in the first quarter before colliding with Embiid and had to be helped off by his teammates. Green appeared to injure his left knee and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Strus dropped in a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:46 left in the second to put the Heat ahead 45-42. Harden responded with a trey to quickly tie the game.
The Heat led 49-48 at halftime thanks in large part to Strus’ game-high 16 points. Embiid paced the Sixers with 14.
Miami came out aggressively in the third with an 11-2 run and moved ahead 60-50 with 8:23 remaining. When Adebayo grabbed a steal at midcourt and drove to the basket for a dunk, the Heat held a 68-52 advantage with 4:56 to go in the third.
Milton provided a late spark off the bench for the Sixers, who trailed 74-63 at the end of the third.
The Sixers looked out of sync offensively to open the fourth and promptly fell behind by 17, 80-63, with 10:43 left. Philadelphia used a late 7-0 run to pull within 11 with 2:47 to go, but the game was out of reach.