Judgement day has finally arrived in Philadelphia. The red-hot Sixers have defied all odds in reaching the NBA playoffs this season, stretching their legs and building a 16-game win streak to end the season, garnering a home-court advantage in the process. The Miami Heat come to town in a series that promises to challenge the team both mentally and physically. But will the Sixers make some noise in the postseason? Here are five things the team will have to do in order to push into the second round.
Without Joel Embiid for game one at the very least, the Sixers are losing their most reliable and dangerous rim-protector. While forcing Whiteside off of his spot offensively won’t be much of an issue (we’ll get to that later), stopping his offensive production will be.
In four games against the Sixers this season, Whiteside has out rebounded, outshot and averaged more blocks than Embiid. With the All-Star sidelined awaiting his Bane like return, Whiteside should be looking to become a focal point of the offense to fully capitalize on Embiid’s absence.
On defense, his presence is paramount to limiting the Sixers to outside shots…but that may actually help the Philadelphia outfit.
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The Sixers essentially have two very different looking units. One with Embiid and one without. One where Simmons controls the world and will decimate opponents and another where the team play selflessly and aim to wreak havoc from three-point range. The durability of J.J Redick will be tested and the veteran presence of Marco Belinelli will be absolutely crucial to keeping Miami on their toes. With the sudden and unexpected emergence of Markelle Fultz, the Sixers have a world of unpredictability to unleash onto the Heat. Will they focus all of their attention inside the paint, or continue to spread the ball around in a very Golden State like fashion? That question could be their greatest asset ahead of this series.
Brett Brown’s step up:
Erik Spoelstra is a tried and tested playoff coach. Brett Brown meanwhile has weathered just about every storm he’s faced and guided the Sixers ship to exciting new waters. The question is, will some of the same errors that have plagued the last few season’s be forced out of hiding against a well experienced postseason mind? In-game adjustments have always been a concern with the Sixers Head Coach and with Miami rotating a little more freely Brown has the talent, he just has to tie the package together.
The Sixers definitely hold an edge coming into this series. With the team’s first 50-win season since that iconic 2001 campaign headlining a tremendous campaign, a sixteen game win streak and an incredible run of home form leave the team in a favorable position. If the Sixers can capitalize on the energy of a city fueled by a Super Bowl win and a NCAA National championship and jump off to a two-win lead, there is every chance of a sweep.
How many times during the regular season have we seen the Sixers storm out to an enormous lead at halftime, only to watch the kingdom Brett Brown built, collapse under its own weight? The answer is too many and the Heat are a team who will keep the game close. The Sixers have to put the icing on the cake and not let off the gas in what will be a new situation for many.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports