Sixers Send Strong Message to Jimmy Butler After Blowout Loss

Jimmy Butler

Getty images Heat star Jimmy Butler.

The Philadelphia 76ers were on the losing end of a beatdown on Tuesday in Game 5 against the Miami Heat, with another big performance from Jimmy Butler putting them on the brink.

The Heat raced out to a 31-19 lead in the first quarter and the Sixers were never able to recover.

“They were so much more engaged. There’s a lot of disappointment from all of us. We played at a snail’s pace,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “Their energy was better. Their toughness was better. That’s on me to make sure they are ready. That’s on all of us. Tonight we were not [ready].”

The Sixers have had no success slowing Butler, who is averaging 26.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game against his former squad, adding 1.8 steals per game for good measure. He shot 60% from the field during the dominant 120-85 Heat victory. Rivers acknowledging they have to change things up to make him uncomfortable.

“We have got to get in his airspace,” Rivers told reporters after the game. “It’s really been three games in a row that he’s doing everything he wants to do. There are adjustments we can make, some we don’t want to make, but we may have to.”

Rivers’ Comment Sparked Controversy Among Heat Fans

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Some took that comment the wrong way, thinking it might be a threat from Rivers. However, the veteran skipper is likely just referring to shifting their defense to stop Butler, which might leave other capable Heat threats like Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo with more runway for big games.

On the other side of things, Butler’s performance and ability to facilitate with Kyle Lowry out of the lineup is giving Miami a boost.

“Our whole team feels a great sense of confidence when the ball is in Jimmy’s hands and we leave the decision up to him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Joel Embiid Eager to Step Up With Season on the Line

Sixers star Joel Embiid is battling through face and thumb injuries, which appeared to hamper his play in Game 5. He was hit in the face while going up for a rebound in the first half and remained on the floor for almost 30 seconds. He did stay in the game but never found his rhythm.

“I thought, coming in, I had the right mindset,” Embiid said in his postgame press conference. “Sometimes your body and whatever’s going on, just won’t allow you to be yourself. In those moments, you just gotta keep pushing.”

Rivers commended Embiid, who has been wearing a protective mask, for being able to battle through the pain.

“He’s tough,” Rivers said. “I think he knew going into all this that there’s going to be a couple times when he gets hit in the face. It’s going to happen. … He got up and said he was fine, after a while.”

Game 6 between the Heat and Sixers is scheduled for Thursday in Philadelphia. The Sixers are listed as an early 2.5-point favorite as they try to keep their season alive.

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