MIAMI, Fla. — Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, Max Strus added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and the Miami Heat moved one win away from a trip to the Eastern Conference finals by topping the Philadelphia 76ers 120-85 on Tuesday night.
Victor Oladipo scored 13 for Miami, which got 12 from Bam Adebayo and 10 apiece from Tyler Herro and P.J. Tucker. The top-seeded Heat now lead the East semifinal series 3-2, and improved to an NBA-best 6-0 at home in these playoffs.
Joel Embiid scored 17 points for fourth-seeded Philadelphia, which got 14 from James Harden and 12 from Tobias Harris. The 76ers were down by 15 going into the fourth, then gave up 12 consecutive points to open the final quarter.
Game 6 is in Philadelphia on Thursday.
It was a tough night all the way around for the Sixers, especially for Embiid — their best player, already wearing a mask to protect a facial fracture and dealing with a significant thumb injury.
Embiid got shaken up in the first quarter when he tried to dive into some baseline seats while attempting to save a loose ball. He doubled over shortly afterward, grabbing at his back.
He remained in the game after that scare.
He also remained in the game after the next scare, which was much worse.
It came midway through the second quarter, when Miami’s Dewayne Dedmon missed a shot and Embiid grabbed the rebound. Dedmon, flailing for the ball, made contact with it — and wound up pushing it back into Embiid’s mask-covered face.
Embiid lost the ball and went down in pain, covering his face with both hands. Oladipo picked up the ball and scored to make it 42-31, but Embiid writhing was of much greater importance to the 76ers than giving up two points. Embiid remained down for several moments, before making his way back to the Philadelphia bench and getting tended to by doctors.
And now Philadelphia must beat the Heat in Games 6 and 7, with almost all the odds pointing to how difficult that task will be.
All-time in best-of-seven series, entering this round, teams that won Game 1 of a matchup ultimately prevail 75.6% of the time. Game 1 winners at home, 85% of the time. Teams that start a series with a 2-0 lead, 92.4% of the time. And teams that win Game 5 for a 3-2 series lead wind up advancing 82.2% of the time.
All those stats favor Miami, obviously.
Tyrese Maxey made a deep 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in the third to pull Philadelphia within 81-66. Whatever hope remained for the 76ers in that moment was short-lived.
A jumper from Herro and then five straight points from Strus were the start of Miami’s game-sealing flurry that opened the fourth. A three-point play from Adebayo pushed the lead to 25, at which point Embiid checked out with the outcome clearly no longer in question.
76ers: None of Philadelphia’s starters played in the final 8:18. … Maxey, who has been great for the majority of this series, shot 2 for 10. … Georges Niang was 0 for 5, all of those shots from 3-point range, reminiscent of his 0-for-7 stat line — all on 3s — in Game 1.
Heat: After shooting 14 for 65 from 3-point range in the two losses at Philadelphia (21.5%), the Heat shot 13 for 33 from deep on Tuesday (39.4%). … Miami improved to 18-4 all-time in Game 5s at home. … The Heat outrebounded Philadelphia 46-36. … Miami is one of two teams unbeaten at home in these playoffs. Golden State is 5-0.
Miami was a three-point favorite at tipoff. After the Heat won the first quarter 31-19, the line went to 7.5 points.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attended the game, seated with Ahmad Rashad — whose ties to the league go back decades, primarily for his years as host and executive producer of “NBA Inside Stuff.” Also in the crowd: NBA champion Mike Miller of the Heat, and longtime baseball star, Miami native and Minnesota Timberwolves co-minority owner Alex Rodriguez.
Game 6 is Thursday in Philadelphia.
Butler, Heat blast past Celtics in Game 1
Jimmy Butler scored 27 of his 41 points after the break, and Miami’s defense locked down Boston to flip an eight-point halftime deficit into a 17-point lead by the end of the third quarter in a 118-107 conquest.
The Celtics lost Al Horford to health and safety protocols in the hours before the series started and ruled Marcus Smart out with the right mid-foot sprain he suffered in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series. Whether they ran out of gas two days after their hard-fought battle with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks or succumbed to Miami’s relentlessness, the Celtics collapsed after halftime and never recovered.
The Heat, who were also without Kyle Lowry (hamstring), found scoring from Tyler Herro (18 points, eight rebounds), Gabe Vincent (17 points) and Max Strus (11 points). Their defense changed the course of a game that nearly got away from them, amassing 12 blocks and forcing 16 turnovers (turned into 19 points).
The Celtics also lost center Robert Williams III with six minutes remaining in the game. He experienced cramping in his left leg, which also required meniscus surgery in March and suffered a bone bruise against the Bucks. After missing the last four games of the conference semifinals, Williams returned to the starting lineup against the Heat and anchored a defense that slowed Miami early, staking Boston to an 18-9 start.
Herro, the Sixth Man of the Year, settled the Heat’s offense, totaling seven of his points and three of his assists in the first quarter to withstand Boston’s early onslaught and keep their deficit respectable, 28-25.
Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half, when the Celtics led by as many as 13 points and 62-54 at the break. But Miami never quit. Butler and Bam Adebayo totaled seven points on a 10-1 run to start the second half, giving the Heat their first lead since they inched ahead for 16 seconds in the first quarter.
Butler inspired a stifling defensive effort after Boston shot 59% from the field in the first half. Two straight steals led to four of his 11 points during Miami’s 22-2 start to the third quarter. The Celtics trailed, 76-64. When the third quarter was done, Boston had eight turnovers and just two field goals on 15 attempts.
The Heat’s lead reached 96-76 on three Herro free throws to start the fourth quarter. Boston was lost. Jaylen Brown could not find any seams in the defense, and the Celtics were relying on Payton Pritchard, Daniel Theis and Aaron Nesmith off the bench — three players on the fringes of their healthy rotation.
The Celtics scratched back within nine points with seven minutes remaining and 114-107 just inside of two minutes, but Butler and the Heat had an answer for every run. His block of Pritchard erased Boston’s final hope, and his last-minute layup gave him the fifth 40-point game of his playoff career and third this year.
– – – – – – –
Cubs pitcher Brandon Hughes makes MLB history in remarkable debut
His Major League debut occurred more suddenly than he would have liked on Tuesday night, but Chicago Cubs pitcher Brandon Hughes made the most of the occasion as he made big-league history at the Friendly Confines.
Hughes, called up to the Cubs on Tuesday before the team’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, was summoned into the game when relief pitcher Daniel Norris was forced to leave the contest because of soreness in his right Achilles tendon.
Needless to say, Hughes made quite the impression, as he struck out the final two batters of the inning and then struck out the side in the seventh inning.
In addition to being impressive, the feat was actually historic. According to STATS Inc. (as cited by Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune) , Hughes is the first pitcher in modern baseball history to record at least five outs and to have them all come via strikeout in his MLB debut.
Infielder Christopher Morel, who was called up along with Hughes on Tuesday, also made his big-league debut, and he joined the party by smacking a home run into the left field bleachers in the eighth inning. In doing so, he became the first Cubs player since Willson Contreras to hit a home run in his first Major League at-bat.
To put the icing on the proverbial cake, the Cubs blanked the Pirates for the second consecutive night, winning 7-0 at Wrigley Field.
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Judge homers twice as Yankees edge Orioles 5-4
BALTIMORE (AP) — The new wall in left field at Camden Yards served its purpose, denying Aaron Judge a home run on his 399-foot drive in the first inning.
“I learned my lesson and decided to go to right field after that,” he said.
The ballpark couldn’t hold Judge’s next two hits, a pair of solo homers that helped the New York Yankees to a 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night. Judge and reliever Michael King were the biggest stars of this victory, New York’s 20th in its last 23 games.
Judge came within a few feet of a three-homer game. His bid in the first hit high off the wall — which was moved back and made taller before this season. He settled for an RBI double, then went deep in the third and fifth to increase his major league-leading home run total to 14.
Judge added a single in the eighth for his third four-hit game and first since 2019.
Ramón Urías homered for the Orioles, who matched a season high with their fifth straight loss. Down 5-3, Baltimore managed a run against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth on a two-out double by Ryan McKenna. With men on second and third, Chapman retired Cedric Mullins on a foul pop for his ninth save in nine chances.
Jameson Taillon (4-1) allowed three runs in five-plus innings. King came on after a leadoff double in the sixth and retired all nine of his hitters with six strikeouts before giving way to Chapman.
After Urías tied the game at 1 with a homer in the second, Judge began hitting to parts of the ballpark that are unchanged this year. His home run to right-center made it 2-1 in the third. After a pair of Baltimore runs in the fourth, Judge tied it with a shot to center.
In the sixth, DJ LeMahieu came up with the bases loaded and one out against Dillon Tate (0-2) and put the Yankees ahead with a groundball. Baltimore then pitched to Judge with first base open, and he grounded out.
An error by Urías at shortstop with two out in the seventh gifted New York an unearned run that made it 5-3.
Judge’s two homers went 410 and 422 feet, according to Statcast, after his double was just under 400. Judge’s reaction to the new dimensions at Camden Yards was about what you’d expect from a right-handed slugger.
“It’s a travesty man. I’m pretty upset,” Judge said. “It looks like a create-a-park now. I didn’t like it because I always like coming here and playing here. Hopefully maybe in a couple years they can put it back in.”
King induced 10 swings and misses, equaling the total by all of Baltimore’s pitchers combined.
“He’s been one of the best relievers in the league, especially considering the amount of innings we’ve been able to get from him,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Really impact innings.”
Before the game, the Orioles designated LHP Logan Allen for assignment and optioned INF Rylan Bannon to Triple-A Norfolk. They selected the contract of LHP Nick Vespi and recalled RHP Logan Gillaspie from Norfolk.
Gillaspie pitched the final two innings, keeping the Yankees off the scoreboard in his big league debut.
Orioles: OF Austin Hays (hand) returned after missing four games. He misplayed Judge’s drive in the first, allowing it to bounce past him off the wall, but he made up for that by throwing Judge out at third when the slugger tried for a triple.
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