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Butler leads Heat past 76ers, into Eastern Conference finals

Butler leads Heat past 76ers, into Eastern Conference finals
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler scored 23 points in the second half of a playoff win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday in Philadelphia. Photo by Rhona Wise/EPA-EFE

May 13 (UPI) -- Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 32 points to lead the Miami Heat to a win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of their second-round playoff series, punching a ticket to the Eastern Conference finals.

Butler scored 23 points in the second half of the 99-90 victory Thursday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Miami, the first team to clinch a spot in the finals from either conference, will play the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics for a spot in the NBA Finals.

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"This was one of the goals we've been working toward all year long," Butler told reporters. "It was a complete team effort. Guys stepped up in a very big way. I'm so proud of my guys, but the job's not finished."

The Heat outscored the 76ers 62-48 in the paint, 13-11 off fast breaks, 22-13 off turnovers and led by as many as 20 points in the victory.

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"This series felt like it was going to feel like three or four different series," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It certainly played out that way. There were different complexions to each game. ... We were able to stay the course and get a tough win."

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Butler and Heat guard Max Strus scored nine points apiece early on to help the Heat carry a 28-25 lead into the second quarter. The 76ers then outscored the Heat 23-21 over the next 12 minutes to make the score 49-48 at halftime.

The Heat started the third on a 19-4 run and never looked back. Miami took a 74-63 edge into the fourth. They 76ers outscored the Heat 27-25 over the final 12 minutes, but couldn't close the gap.

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Guard Tyrese Maxey and center Joel Embiid scored 20 points apiece in the loss. 76ers guard James Harden scored 11 points, with zero in the second half.

Strus totaled 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat. Heat forward P.J. Tucker scored a dozen points in the win.

''I know I tried," Embiid said. "I think for the most part, we tried. It just wasn't good enough.''

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The top-seeded Heat will take on the Celtics or Bucks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals either Sunday or Tuesday in Miami. The No. 3 seeded Bucks lead that series 3-2 on the No. 2 Celtics.

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