Five thoughts on the Sixers as they prepare for round 2 of the NBA playoffs

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It’s over and yet, it’s just starting for the Philadelphia 76ers. Having just won their opening round series against the Miami Heat, the Sixers move on to the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the winner of the Celtics/Bucks series. Where does it all go from here? How far can the Sixers go in the playoffs? What can we expect from the Sixers moving forward?

 

Unfazed:
Going to the second round of the playoffs is huge for this team. They’ve just won their first playoffs series since 2012 and they’re not looking like the deer in the headlights team that people thought they might be at the start of the playoffs. They’ve shown the ability to adjust during games and during a series. The Miami Heat were blown out in Game 1 and then came back for a Game 2 win. But, after the first game, the Heat took on a completely different look and decided that they would play the way of the late 80’s Detroit Pistons. In watching the series, the Sixers weren’t aggressors and rarely retaliated to the Heat and the ridiculous amount of fouls and cheap shots they took on the team.

Watching them stand up for each other but not get themselves in to bad situations was a great sign that the Sixers will not change their style of play of bow down to repeated pressure and bullying. Seeing the team maintain composure throughout the series was a big plus as the playoffs only get tougher from here. They should really look to having as physically dirty series as the one they just won, but there will be physical play and they’ve shown that they can withstand and overcome that style.

 

Built for greatness:
The Sixers, after this Heat series, have suddenly become the darlings of the NBA East and everyone seems to be picking them for the NBA Finals. They still have to play the games, so we’ll have to see how it plays out. But, you can’t deny that this team has appeared to be a special one and they’re built to win. They possess more height than most team throughout both their first and second units as well as the shooting to match up with any team in the league right now. Their defense has been one of the tops in the league for the whole season and the best over the last two months. Right now, the East is a mess. The Cavs, Celtics and Raptors have all been having issues in their series. The Sixers, with their shooting and defense present a bad matchup for anyone on any given night.

 

The process returns:
Joel Embiid is the biggest x-factor for the Sixers as they go through the next round of the playoffs and hopefully beyond. There’s simply no one in the Eastern Conference or the league for that matter, that can compete with Embid. He’s too big, too strong, and too talented for anyone to be able to contain him. So, how can the Sixers use that to their advantage without messing up their rhythm on offense? Simply, by feeding Embiid the ball in the low post and allowing him to dominate the defense. Teams would have to account for him down low and he’s a good enough passer to get the ball out and moving while there are open players on the perimeter.

The issue for the Sixers is that they allow Embiid to get the ball at the top of the key and he’s not able to get through three defenders with his dribble. He /turns the ball over way too much and needs to be better in that one aspect of his game. As he gets older and plays more, he’ll be able to grasp this but right now he’s young and not recognizing a collapsing defense. He’s a skilled big man, but he sometimes gets in to the mindset of being a guard. Coach Brett Brown would be wise to work with him on recognizing the defense and making the best play for the team. His points will come but he can’t force the ball, especially as the teams are tougher later in these rounds of the playoffs.

 

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Patience is a virtue:
Markelle Fultz has seen a total of nine minutes in the past three games and seems to be out of the rotation of Coach Brett Brown. The first overall pick in last years draft is having a hard time when he’s on the floor. If he shows good movement and playmaking in practice, he can still get some time on the floor, but for right now, Brown seems to be going with TJ McConnell off the bench to give Ben Simmons some rest. As the next round is going to be even tougher than the first and the competition even better than the Heat, Fultz could wind up seeing minutes if the Sixers wind up with some of their wings in foul trouble. They can’t succeed if Ben gets in foul trouble and McConnell is seeing extended minutes. For all of McConnells good points, he’s not going to bring the same things to the table. That’s where Fultz could wind up getting some time on the floor. He’s a skilled defender and that will also help. It’s tough to watch him sit on the bench, but he’s learning and a few games off may give him just the rest and break that he needs to get back to playing within his limits.

 

From way downtown:
The Sixers have hit the most three pointers of any team in the league so far in the playoffs and that’s a bad thing. Not for the Sixers, but for the rest of the league and whomever may be facing them. Why, you may ask? Simply put, they haven’t shot the ball that well the past few games. Everyone goes through a cold spell, but they need Redick, Convington and Ilyasova to snap out of their funk. In all likelihood, the players will snap out of it as they’re all more than capable from downtown.

Redick is a career 41% shooter from deep and he’s been playing poorly in that area of late. Ilyasova was logging minutes at the center position and needs to get back to his customary role on the second unit, now that Embiid is back and should be even better in the next round.

Covington, on the other hand, is playing right where he’s been all year, but he seems to just fire away instead of looking to take the best shot. The shooting woes are not going to be around for long and I’d be surprised if they continued after these past few games. With a few days rest to get ready for the second round, the Sixers shooters should be rested and they won’t have to contend with a team as dirty as the Heat in the next few rounds.

 

20-1:
As the team has gone 20-1 over their past 21 games, this squad keeps getting better and overcoming obstacles that are placed in front of them. They’re learning and growing on the fly and that makes them trouble for the opposition. They still rely on the three-point shot and they’ll continue that, but Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have the ability to take over games when they want to and if they need to. Speaking with a local Sixers fan, Mike Ford, after the series clincher against Miami, Fords take is “the Sixers will advance through the second round. The Celtics or the Bucks will not be an easy out, but the sixers will take care of business. Philly officially owns Boston”. It’s easy to see how the Super Bowl is still on the minds of the fans but this Sixers team is something special and the fans realize that. It’s going to be tough, but they can do it and the fans are on their side, as Ford said, “this is what happens when you trust the Process”.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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