Jimmy Butler scored 23 points as the Miami Heat thrashed the Philadelphia 76ers 120-85 to seize control of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series on Tuesday.
Butler led a superbly balanced offensive performance from Miami as the Heat took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series after dropping the last two games.
It means Miami are just one win away from returning to the Eastern Conference finals and can clinch the series with a victory in game six in Philadelphia on Thursday.
After Tuesday’s dominant performance few would bet against Miami closing out the series against a Sixers team who were outplayed in every department.
Butler was one of seven Miami players who finished in double figures, with Max Strus contributing 19 points with 10 rebounds and Gabe Vincent adding 15 points. Victor Oladipo weighed in with 13 off the bench while Bam Adebayo had 12.
Philadelphia meanwhile struggled to get going at any stage, with Joel Embiid – wearing a protective facemask once more to shield a fractured orbital bone – clearly not firing on all cylinders.
Embiid finished with 17 points to lead the Sixers scoring, while James Harden had just 14. Overall Philadelphia shot just 31 of 85 from the field.
“We did what we were supposed to do once again – we won at home,” Butler said afterwards in an on-court interview.
“We’re a different team when we make shots. But I don’t like that – I want us to get stops no matter what and then worry about making shots.”
Asked what it will take to clinch the series in game six on Thursday, Butler replied: “Us to continue to play basketball the right way, us to get stops and not rely on making shots.
“I promise you if we don’t give a damn about making shots and just concentrate on defense, we will win.”
Sixers coach Doc Rivers meanwhile was at a loss to explain his team’s failure to show up.
“They were just so much more engaged, more physical,” Rivers said of Miami.
“There’s a lot of disappointment from all of us tonight.
“They were just more physical. We played at a snail’s pace, had just 85 shots, turned the ball over. Everything they did tonight was harder and better than us.
“Their energy was better, their toughness was better. I haven’t said that often about us, and that’s on me to make sure they’re ready.”
Asked about what aspects of the game had gone wrong, Rivers replied: “I’ll have to watch the tape — or burn the tape. Probably watch it because I’ have to, and then I’ll burn it.
“But we’ll be ready next game, because we have to be.”