In Game 6, Heat and 76ers show they’re on different levels
Doc Rivers stepped onto the court and called timeout before Bam Adebayo even finished his pick-six dunk.
Maybe Rivers should’ve kept walking.
The Heat overran the 76ers, 99-90, in Game 6 of their second-round series Thursday. Miami advances to the Eastern Conference finals to face the Bucks-Celtics winner. Philadelphia enters an offseason of tension (or worse, no tension).
This will be the Heat’s eighth conference finals since 2005, breaking a tie with the Spurs for most in that span. Miami just continues to win by attracting stars like Jimmy Butler (32 points and eight rebounds tonight) and identifying/developing unheralded players like Max Strus (20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists tonight). Though it has become cliché, the Heat’s culture is truly special.
Especially when compared to the 76ers’.
Philadelphia’s resolve was so lacking. James Harden went scoreless in the second half, attempting just two shots. He will be eligible for a five-year, $269,853,016 contract this summer. However, his performance – tonight especially, but also throughout the playoffs – was not becoming of a max player.
Harden totaled 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Though he passed well (nine assists), his team needed far more scoring creation against a staunch Miami defense. That’s what’s expected of a supposed star like Harden. By contrast, Butler wasn’t exactly efficient, shooting just 13-for-29. But he understood the Heat were better off going through him – and stepped up.
There were already murmurs about Rivers’ job security. The 76ers’ lackluster effort with their season on the line will only increase scrutiny. Philadelphia fell behind by 20 with five minutes left before mounting a comeback that made the final score look respectable more than it threatened to change the game’s outcome.
The 76ers could max out Harden and retain Rivers, keeping everyone fat and happy. But this team has not accomplished nearly enough to settle for complacency. Joel Embiid (who had 20 points and 12 rebounds while playing through multiple injuries) deserves better. Philadelphia fans, who booed the home team, certainly demand better.
A smaller decision: Danny Green’s $10 million unguaranteed salary for next season becomes fully guaranteed July 1. Green left tonight’s game with a serious-looking left knee injury.
Miami, on the other hand, could be trending the other way with its injury issues. Kyle Lowry sat out tonight, giving his ailing hamstring more time to heal. The Heat will need all hands on deck against Milwaukee or Philadelphia.