While they are known for their aggressive and rabid nature, Philadelphia sports fans have an unusual amount of cheer lately. The Eagles won the Super Bowl, local school Villanova won the NCAA Tournament and the 76ers are currently on a roll. There is a lot to be excited about in the city of brotherly love at the moment. They are the sports capital of the country a the moment. After defeating the Miami Heat 104-91 in Game 5, the Philadelphia 76ers are advancing to the second round of the NBA playoffs. They will now await the winner of the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks first-round series. Including this 4-1 playoff series win, Philadelphia has won 20 of its last 21 games.
Post-Series Analysis: Philadelphia 76ers Route Miami Heat in Five Games
The Heat just could not keep up with the 76ers. In all four victories, the 76ers took over a tight first half game to pull away in the second. The 76ers pace and abundance of weapons proved too much for Erik Spoelstra’s Heat to overcome. Philly had at least five players in double figures in each game of the series, and averaged 114 points a game. The 76ers also showed their depth, having a bench player in double figures in each of the five games.
The Heat had a solid season, by most accounts out performing expectations. They just could not contend with the 76ers playing at peak efficiency. Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Kelly Olynyk all had good series for Miami. However, center Hassan Whiteside had only 26 points in five games, and was mostly ineffective trying to slow down Joel Embiid.
Stars Shining Bright
The 76ers are led by their two young stars. Making their playoff debuts, Embiid and Ben Simmons did not disappoint. The possible Rookie of the Year, Simmons had a double-double in four of five games in the series. He controlled the flow of the game when he was on the court. His combination of size, skill, and athleticism, along with a unique feel for the game, allow him to influence every aspect of play.
For the series he averaged 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 9 assists a game. Not bad for a rookie making his first playoff appearance. Simmons knows where his teammates are at all times. He always has a sense of when to push the pace and when to slow things down. The scary prospect is that he is nowhere near his ceiling in terms of potential.
Center Embiid had to wait a little longer than Simmons to make his playoff debut. A facial fracture and concussion forced him to miss the end of the regular season and the first two games of this series. The big man returned for games 3-5 and averaged 18.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and two blocks.
Like most current big men in the NBA, Embiid has the ability to drift out to the perimeter to make shots. However, his skill and willingness to bang inside the paint is what sets him apart. He has exceptional footwork in the post, and his touch around the basket makes him almost unguardable in today’s game. Embiid has to wear a protective mask to keep from making his injury worse. He was at times frustrated and uncomfortable with it, but was still highly effective. As he gets himself back into game shape and grows more comfortable with the mask, his productivity could increase even more.
Collection of Shooters
Coach Brett Brown has surrounded his two young stars with veterans and shooters. With all the attention that Embiid and Simmons draw from opposing defenses, their teammates often get open looks. J.J. Redick was brought in in the off-season to help this young team and provide shooting and playoff experience. He has done exactly that, scoring 51 points and hitting seven three-pointers in the last two games.
While Redick ended the first round hot, it was late season pick up Marco Belinelli who began the series on fire. He scored 25 points in the opener and averaged 16.6 points for the series. These two vets have brought the 76ers exactly what they need, but they are not the only shooters available. Second-year player Dario Saric has been excellent in his first taste of playoff action. The 6’10” forward scored 20+ points in each of the first three games. This collection of perimeter threats circling around the star tandem of Simmons and Embiid make the 76ers an extremely tough team to defend.
The Philadelphia 76ers Process Continues
This team will now have a few days off as the Celtics and Bucks finish off their first-round series. The extra rest will benefit Embiid, as he will have more time to heal and get comfortable wearing his protective mask. Both teams would present a unique challenge to coach Brown’s streaking team. Defending the wings will be important in either match-up, as both Milwaukee and Boston have been getting superb play from their perimeter scorers. Nothing comes easy as you progress in the NBA playoffs. However, the Philadelphia 76ers are the hottest team in the league, and have all the pieces they need to continue their run through the Eastern Conference. The balance and depth this team possess will make them tough to stop. Add to that their current form and confidence, and Philly sports fans could see their current cheerfulness continue.
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 15: Comedian Kevin Hart walks into Joel Embiid’s #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers post game television interview to congratulate him for scoring career high 46-point against Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center November 15, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork S. Djansezian)