Defense key as Heat return to East finals

Published May 14, 2022, 6:00 AMRenee Ticzon

The Heat eliminated the Sixers by playing impressive defense on Philly’s stars, Joel Embiid and James Harden.

The Miami Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals after beating the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of their series.

Jimmy Butler has always performed better in the playoffs than in the regular season, and he proved it yet again. In Game 6, he ended with 32 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. He now has scored above 30 points in four consecutive road games. 

One of Miami’s undrafted gems, Max Strus, had a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds along with five assists. Bam Adebayo had a quiet shooting night with just 10 points and eight rebounds, but his defensive impact was key to their win, making life difficult for Joel Embiid.

The game went back and forth in the first half but things started shifting in Miami’s favor in the third period. Butler erupted for 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. They also limited Embiid to just six points and kept James Harden scoreless in the second half. 

Sure, they allowed Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey to score 15 and 10 points, respectively, in the final two quarters, but that’s what they wanted to do. The Heat focused on stopping the two superstars and let Philly’s other players score. 

Miami did a great job disrupting Embiid and Harden so much that both stars never had an opportunity to get into a rhythm. They forced Embiid out of the paint and terrorized him when he was inside. Two of his seven made field goals were from beyond the arc, which is not really his game.

Meanwhile, the Heat dominated in the paint, 62-48, and in second-chance opportunities, 17-9. Pretty good stats for a small team.

In the end, it was Butler’s offensive blowout plus the defensive effort of the entire rotation that led to the series-clinching win. Now the Heat will wait to see who they’ll meet in their second Eastern Conference appearance in three seasons.