It’s summer break for Philly, while Luka Dončić and the Mavs have forced a Game 7 with the Suns this weekend.
Heat 99, 76ers 90
Series: MIA WINS 4-2
After scoring his 32nd point on Thursday night, as Miami cruised to a series-clinching victory in the City of Brotherly Love, Jimmy Butler waved goodbye to the Philadelphia crowd. Butler hadn’t forgotten that the Sixers ultimately chose Tobias Harris over him after the 2019 season, and he let everyone know it on his way back to the visitor’s locker room.
Jimmy Butler with a strong message for the 76ers after the Heat beat Philly in the Eastern Conference Finals. “Tobias Harris over me?”
— WPLG Local 10 Sports (@Local10Sports) May 13, 2022
“Tobias Harris over me?” Butler shouted after he ended the Sixers’ season. Since leaving Philadelphia after the 2019 season, Butler has reached the Eastern Conference Finals twice and the NBA Finals once. The Sixers? They haven’t reached the Eastern Conference Finals since long before Joel Embiid, and The Process started in Philly. The 76ers have made bad move after bad move in the front office during their current contention window. Drafting Markelle Fultz was one. Allowing Jimmy Butler to walk was another.
Their latest move sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks to Brooklyn for James Harden. While I’m sure they’re happy to be rid of Ben Simmons, James Harden scored the same amount of points as Ben Simmons in the second half of last night’s series-ending loss. Zero. Harden finished the game with 11 points and averaged just 18 points per contest in the series. After the game, Harden did his usual deflecting, telling reporters that “we ran our offense, the ball just didn’t get back to me.”
But the tape doesn’t lie:
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 13, 2022
Harden will be 33 next season, and many wonder if this will go down as the next in a long line of missteps by the Sixers front office during the Joel Embiid era. The early returns on that experiment don’t look great for Philly, and if this move does blow up in their face, it’ll be hard to fix with two first-rounders now in Brooklyn’s possession. Harden has a player option for $47.1 million next season, which would be a significant chunk of Philadelphia’s cap space. Who knows what happens from here, but I wouldn’t be feeling great about it if I was a Sixers fan.
Joel Embiid called the series loss to Philly a toughness issue:
“You look at every other team, whether it’s Boston and Milwaukee, there’s a sense of just toughness that all of them play with,” Embiid said. “I think just watching the playoffs and playing against all those teams, that’s what I take away from it: I just need to be tougher, and we all need to be tougher.”
It’ll be an interesting offseason in Philly, and it starts today. As for Miami, they’re onto the ECF and await the winner of the Bucks-Celtics series this weekend.
Mavericks 113, Suns 86
Series: TIED 3-3
Luka Dončić did it again. Dončić scored 33 points and recorded 11 rebounds and 8 assists in a lopsided victory over the Phoenix Suns last night to force a decisive Game 7 this weekend, a sentence I honestly didn’t think that I would be writing. Not for doubting Luka Dončić and his greatness, but rather my confidence that the 64-win Suns would roll through these Western Conference Playoffs to set up their second straight NBA Finals appearance.
But this is why the playoffs are special. Anything can happen. With the series coming down to one final game, you better believe that Luka Dončić and the Mavs have as good a chance as anyone, the Suns included.
ON TO GAME 7 😤
The Mavs stay alive thanks to a 33-point night from Luka Doncic! pic.twitter.com/ahYjFxgEXe
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 13, 2022
The question now becomes this: can the Suns stop Luka? It’s that simple. Luka is averaging 31.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in nine games in these playoffs and 32.2 points per contest in this series with Phoenix.
The silver lining for the Suns? The home team has dominated every game thus far in this series. In Game 5 in Phoenix, the Suns found a way to limit the Mavs’ shooting; now they’ll have to do it one more time if they want to earn their second WCF appearance in as many years.