Miami advances to conference finals; James Harden, Joel Embiid fall short

The Miami Heat are headed to the Eastern Conference finals for the second time in three years after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers, 99-90, in Game 6 on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Miami went on devastating runs to start the third and fourth quarters to extend its lead, while the 76ers struggled offensively for the entire night behind a banged-up Joel Embiid and a quiet James Harden.

Miami’s Jimmy Butler continued his postseason assault, leading the team in scoring (32 points) while playing his normal brand of lockdown defense. The real story for the Heat, however, was Max Strus, who set the tone early with his shooting, passing and rebounding. Strus ended with 20 points and hit four 3-pointers. Miami was one step ahead of Philadelphia all night long, with spectacular execution on both ends.

Embiid, who finished with 20 points on 7-of-24 shooting, came out more aggressively on offense, but simply couldn’t get going against the Heat’s suffocating defense. He fell to the floor multiple times throughout the game and looked visibly tired being on the court for 44 minutes. Harden got out to a solid start, but was silenced in the second half and finished with just 11 points on nine shot attempts on the night. He also didn’t attempt a free throw in nearly 43 minutes and was scoreless in the second half.

The Heat advance to play the winner of the Celtics-Bucks series, and they will have home-court advantage in the conference finals by virtue of earning the No. 1 seed.

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