By Miguel Gonzalez and Alexander Reich
Sports Editor and Staff Writer
The process has entered the next stage in Philadelphia.
After years of tanking, frustration and heartbreak, the Philadelphia 76ers are returning to the NBA playoffs. Unlike the 2012 team that fought hard to secure the eighth seed, the Sixers are rolling through the Eastern Conference with a 16-game winning-streak.
There is no doubt that the Sixers are capable of defeating the sixth-seeded Miami Heat. The question is whether or not Philadelphia can use their elite talent and make a run for the Eastern Conference finals. There has been a ton of hype in the “City of Brotherly Love” all season long, and this is the time when fans should be excited.
This team has gathered tremendous momentum to make a huge splash in the playoffs. Sixers star Ben Simmons has shown head coach Brett Brown his determination for success during the regular season.
He’s now transformed into a young, talented player who can help his teammates strive for greatness. He’s got great footwork and a ton of speed in transition. Even with Joel Embiid being out at the center position and recovering from a broken bone near his left eye, Simmons can successfully lead the Sixers to crucial playoff victories.
Meanwhile, Sixers guard Markelle Fultz has showed why he was the No. 1 draft pick in 2017. Despite analysts questioning his shooting ability, he grinded out and found a way to get playing time. Since then, he’s been a terrific help for the youthful Sixers. In the Sixers’ 130-95 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, April 11, Fultz became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. He had a total of 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 25 minutes while the Sixers picked up their sixteenth consecutive win.
The Sixers are embracing their motto “Trust The Process” to a whole new level this season. The amount of struggle the Sixers went through is quite a journey to prosperity. Looking back in the past two years, the Sixers never had a consistent roster. Just two years ago, the Sixers recorded an abysmal 10-72 record and were 47 games back from the Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers. Sixers fans endured years of blowouts and missed opportunities.
At the other side of the court, the Sixers will need to repel a resurging Miami Heat. The Heat had trouble being consistent during the regular season. The team finished third in the Eastern Conference with a 44-38 record, 15 games behind the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors. The Heat will need to cope under the thriving atmosphere of Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. While the team isn’t as fierce as it used to be, this squad has playmakers who will push the Sixers to their limit.
The two effective playmakers are shooting guard Dwyane Wade and center Hassan Whiteside. Going back to the 2011 playoffs when the Heat faced the Sixers in game one of the opening round, Wade dropped 17 points and five assists. It’s definitely not going to be easy for the Sixers to contain Wade, even with home court advantage. It’s going to be interesting to watch how the Sixers control Wade on the perimeter and in the paint along with Whiteside.
Another player to keep an eye on is point guard Goran Dragic, because he is one of the most impactful players on the Miami Heat right now. He’s going to have to play efficiently and find a ton of open shot opportunities. It’s definitely going to be one heck of a battle to see him play against Simmons, Fultz and shooting guard Marco Belinelli.
The Sixers and the Miami Heat will fight for a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Despite all their momentum and talent, the Sixers will go to work against this Miami Heat squad from tip-off to the final buzzer.