By Lewis Gould

Jimmy Butler torched the Sixers again last night.

He had 23 points and nine rebounds as the Heat blew away Philly 120-85 to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern semis, with game 6 Thursday night at the Wells.

Butler drained 40 Sunday night as the Sixers won game 4.

For the series, his stats are steller, including 33 in the Sixers game 3 win.

Philly has no answers for Butler.

Which makes us wonder about how much better the Sixers would be if they had kept Butler three years ago instead of doing a sign-and-trade deal with Miami when it became obvious that Butler and overrated Ben Simmons couldn’t co-exist.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne was also wondering:

But it’s impossible to watch what Jimmy Butler did to the Sixers Tuesday night in the Miami Heat‘s 120-85 win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and not wonder how different the NBA might look had the Sixers chosen to retain Butler in the summer of 2019.

The Sixers had traded for Butler the previous fall after he’d lost faith and basically snarled his way out of Minnesota in the hopes his competitive spirit and veteran savvy would help take their young superstar duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to the next level.

It did not go as planned, however.

While Butler and Embiid bonded and have remained friends, Simmons became disenfranchised by Butler’s playing and leadership style.

Both needed the ball in their hands, which pitted them against each other.

Eventually it got to the point the organization felt it needed to choose between them, according to team sources, and it chose Simmons. He was younger, and at the time, seemed to have a higher ceiling. He was also still on a rookie-scale deal, and not due for a massive free-agent contract.

Plenty of organizations would’ve done the same.

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