The Sixers are the first team in NBA history to end the season on a 16-game winning streak. With the last eight of those wins coming without Eastern Conference All-Star, Joel Embiid, the Sixers are using their surrounding talent alongside an all-time rookie to propel this team to a top Eastern Conference squad.
As the 3rd overall seed, the Sixers are taking on the 6th-seeded, Miami Heat. In their four previous match-ups, the Sixers have been victorious in two by only a combined eight points. Their two losses were both close games as well, so this series proves to be a fun one, to say the least.
The Sixers will have home-court advantage as the three seed, and with playoff basketball not having been played in Philly since 2012, the fans will be ready to rock the roof off the Wells Fargo Center.
For a team that will be likely playing their first two games without star center Joel Embiid, let’s take a look at three factors that will determine their success in this series.
#1 Veterans Becoming Teachers
Yes, the Sixers best players on the roster are Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, two young superstars who are far from the title of ‘veteran’ in this league. While these two players will be immensely important to the team’s playoff success, especially whenever Embiid is due to return, a major difference maker will be their veteran presence. J.J. Redick will be a major answer to how this team stays consistent early in their scoring. Currently shooting 45.8% from the field, which is third best in his career, he has been an offensive machine for the Sixers. He’s produced over twenty 20-point outings, which includes six of 25 points or more. Above all, he’s been a big mentor to the young guards who surround him on the team.
With 88 career playoff games under his belt, that type of experience has to go to use when it comes to getting the young guns mentally ready. Midseason additions will prove to be a major proponent of playoff experience with Marco Belinelli having 48 playoff games and Ersan Ilyasova with 29 playoff games under their belts. Amir Johnson and Jared Bayless also have experience with playoff basketball, so none of this experience can go unnoticed.
Playoff basketball is so different from the regular season and the players making their playoff debuts will have some nerves and jitters. Veteran scoring and production will prove wonders for the rookie and young player’s confidences. The veterans on this team have been a major part of their success thus far, and it won’t prove to be any different in the future.
#2 Ben Simmons Taking It Into Second Gear
Ben Simmons has been Godsent to the Sixers. He’s second all-time in triple-doubles as a rookie with 12 (Oscar Robertson had 26), it is just amazing to see the type of player Ben has become. Many people, like ex-NBA coach Larry Brown, said that Ben Simmons would not be able to transition into a point guard. Well, he has answered the critics and basically taken the league by storm at 21 years old. As a rookie point guard in the NBA, it is so hard to really establish yourself in the first year because of how many dominant point guards there are in the league. Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry…this list goes on and on.
Over his final 23 appearances of the season, Simmons proved to be a high-impact, dynamic force. He averaged 13.7 points per game on 58.7 percent shooting, while posting 9.3 rebounds, 10.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. For us to say that he isn’t already in the league’s top-tier point guards, we are really doing him a disservice. This guy makes everyone on the court so much better, and it can’t go unnoticed that he’s made them a better shooting team because of the open looks he creates when he attacks the lane, then when getting in the lane, making great passes to the open shooters.
Expect Ben to do it all in the playoffs. He will look to take his scoring to the next level while still distributing the ball at a high rate.
#3 The Home Crowd
Embiid gets the crowd going.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 14, 2018
While this may sound cliche, the Sixers really do feed off their home crowd. The Sixers have the best record in 2018 in the Eastern Conference and lost one singular game at home in 2018 (24-1). The Wells Fargo Center has treated this team right this year and it is 100% a testament to the fans who waited and sat through the long years of ‘The Process’ that are now finally getting to see productive and winning basketball. With the Sixers having four of the potential seven games in the series at home, their success at home can be the ultimate decision maker in this series.
With the team without Embiid (most likely) for the first two games, they will need that home energy to feed off of. The Philadelphia 76ers Marketing team has done a great job promoting the playoffs around Philadelphia with this logo seen below.
The logo has the tagline ‘Phila Unite’ explaining the comradery that has been built over the 2018 season between these fans. The center logo of the court will display this new playoff logo and it will be exciting to see the fans rally around this team.