Miami Heat completed a 4-2 series win over the Philadelphia 76ers with a 99-90 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.
(This article was originally published on 13.05.2022)
Eastern Conference top seeds Miami can be backed at 19/5 to go all the way and claim the NBA Championship outright and Sixers star Joel Embiid was quick to pay tribute to Heat counterpart Jimmy Butler after the game.
Embiid missed the first two games of the series and Miami seized the advantage with back-to-back wins to open up a 2-0 lead.
The Cameroonian center returned in Game 3 and helped the Sixers level the series at 2-2, but the Heat responded and finished the series in six games.
Butler had a brief spell with Philadelphia in the 2018-19 season and managed to impress in that short period.
The forward played 67 games for the team, 55 in the regular season and 12 in the postseason, in a campaign where they took eventual champions Toronto Raptors to seven games in the second round of the playoffs.
Butler led the game in scoring on Thursday with 32 points, with eight rebounds and four assists, and after the final buzzer he spoke to Embiid on court.
The Heat talisman admitted after the game that he wished he was still playing alongside Embiid, and the Sixers star returned the compliment in his own post-game interview.
"Obviously that's my guy, that's my brother," said Embiid, via CBS Sport. "I mean, it's tough. But I'm so proud of him. He's playing at an unreal level right now. He's something else right now. And I'm proud of him for being at this level and carrying them and what he's been able to do."
It could be argued that no version of the Sixers since Butler's exit has been as good as they were when he was on the team, and Embiid concedes he is still unsure as to why the former Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves star was traded.
However, Embiid remains hopeful that Philadelphia are building a team that will be able to challenge for the championship in the years ahead.
He added: "I'm happy for him. I won't sit here and say I didn't wish he was my teammate. I still don't know how we let him go. But I wish I could have gone to battle with him still. But it is what it is. Just gotta keep building and keep trying to reach that goal."
Miami will face either the Boston Celtics or the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. The Bucks hold a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series ahead of Game 6 at the Fiserv Forum on Friday.