After getting punched in the mouth in Game 2 by a tough, physical Heat team, led by a turn-back-the-clock performance by Dwyane Wade, the young Sixers bounced back with two impressive victories in Miami — one keyed by the return of All-Star center Joel Embiid, and the other fueled by Rookie of the Year hopeful Ben Simmons and some big late-game plays by veteran J.J. Redick — to give themselves the chance to eliminate Erik Spoelstra’s club back in the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Center in Tuesday’s Game 5 .
It’s been an impressive start to the postseason careers of Simmons, Embiid and fellow first-timer Dario Saric, the bumper crop of young difference-makers the Sixers plucked during their years at the bottom of the standings and the top of the NBA draft.
They’ve roasted opposing defenses with and without Embiid, thanks to Simmons’ preternatural playmaking gifts as a 6-foot-10 point guard/matchup nightmare and the long-range shooting of Redick, 3-and-D swingman Robert Covington and buyout-market acquisitions Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.
Philly’s got balance, depth, top-end talent and a smart coach who’s suffered through the growing pains of building a roster from scratch and who knows how to push the right buttons for his team.
With Embiid now back in the fold, the Sixers look downright scary — remember, Philly’s point differential with JoJo on the floor this season was the equivalent of what you’d expect from a 68-win team , according to Ben Falk’s numbers at Cleaning the Glass — especially in the context of what else is going on in the Eastern half of the bracket.
Then again, a look back over the last couple of decades reveals a few exceptions — the 2010-11 Thunder, the 2006-07 Jazz, the 1994-95 Magic — to suggest that sometimes a team with the right collection of ready-before-their-time talent, veteran seasoning and favorable matchups can find its way into the final four, and maybe even into the championship round.
That’s admittedly heady stuff to put on a team whose rotation features five players ages 27 and under making their first NBA playoff appearance, led by a coach who has plenty of postseason reps as an assistant from his years on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio, but who is now experiencing the pressure for the first time in the lead chair.
- Heat vs. Sixers 2018 live results: Score updates and highlights from Game 5SB Nation
- Live updates: Miami Heat fights to keep NBA Playoff hopes alive against 76ersMiami Herald
- Allen Iverson confronts Stephen A. Smith on the Process: 'I told you'PhillyVoice.com
- Draymond Green texting Joel Embiid advice during playoffsYahoo Sports
- 76ers vs. Heat odds, Game 5: 2018 NBA playoffs picks, predictions from Vegas ...CBSSports.com
- Embiid, Sixers Looking To Bounce Heat Out Of PlayoffsCBS Miami
- 76ers aim for 2nd round, Embiid says Philly will be 'lit'New Jersey Herald
- Allen Iverson Has Joel Embiid On His List Of The Top Five Current NBA PlayersUPROXX
- Sixers' Marco Belinelli on Game 5: 'It's going to be another war'Philly.com