The Wells Fargo Center wasn’t just the venue for the Sixers first playoff game since 2012. It was the epicenter of a journey spanning the last five years. Gone are the days where the stadium sits half-filled in near-silence. Packed to the rafters and with the very ground shaking throughout the night, the Sixers home ground has turned into a fortress. Fans who battled through the testing times were all witness to a dominant second half performance from their beloved team that saw them win the opening game of the series against Miami in eccentric style…and the best part is that the fun is only just beginning. Here are five takeaways from the masterful win.
Simmons makes a statement:
For Miami, the gameplan was clear. Stop. Ben. Simmons.
That’s easier said than done. And while trying to keep him out of the paint worked well enough to stop him putting up 25+ points, that was merely damage limitation. Simmons rose to the occasion with some emotional dunks and a whopping 14 assists…and that was the name of the game Miami couldn’t stop.
Brett Brown made some excellent half time tweaks and the Sixers enjoyed an offensive explosion. Selfless play saw the Sixers continue their fun and friendly style of offense. Coming into the playoffs, they ranked second in the league in assist percentage and fourth in pace. Philly played fast and moved the ball around with such ease that it became nearly impossible to stop the bleeding.
Veterans lead the way:
Much has been said of the impact of Ilyasova, Redick and Belinelli recently, but if you ever needed visual representation, last night was exactly that. J.J Redick led the game in scoring with 28 points, draining 60% of his three point efforts. Meanwhile, Italian veteran Marco Belinelli put up 25 points and Ilyasova added 17 to the tally. The three musketeers were well equipped last night and took full advantage of fluid ball movement and some excellent work on screens and picks. It’s all well and good to focus efforts on Simmons, but Miami learned the hard way that there is much more to the Sixers than Aussie brilliance.
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Covington may not have had an electric offensive performance, but his presence inside on defense was absolutely crucial in the team’s win. Three roar inducing blocks and 7 rebounds still don’t do Covington’s breakout justice. With the Sixers needing to find ways to keep Hasaan Whiteside relatively quiet, they may have found an answer in Robert Covington.
I mentioned it right at the beginning of the article, but the Wells Fargo Center was raw with emotion last night. Fans, players, coaches, even commentators, all fed off of a truly magical moment. It’s been a long an arduous road back to the playoffs and the fans wanted to make sure they cherish every single moment. By being as loud as possible, chanting ‘trust the process’ at the top of their lungs and leaping onto their feet after a big play, the fans energized the players. You could see Ben Simmons feeding off of the momentum at times and Redick almost asking for more when the team began to find their rhythm. The Sixers brought the heat on and off the field last night and there was nothing Miami could do to extinguish that flame.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports