We Sixers fans have found ourselves with three playoff games under our belt after Thursday’s dramatic win over the Miami Heat. After splitting the first two games in Philadelphia, the Sixers took back the momentum with the win and now lead the series 2-1. These three games have already been a massive roller coaster ride for Sixers fans after seeing their beloved team make the playoffs for the first time since 2012. This has easily been the most exciting and intriguing playoff series in the NBA so far and it’s wonderful to see the spotlight shine on these 76ers. Game one was everything we had hoped as they put on a shooting barrage against Miami, draining 18 three-point shots. Even without their star big man and centerpiece Joel Embiid, Philly proved they belonged among the NBA elite. Head coach Brett Brown deserves most of the credit, as he tinkered with the usual lineup they roll out every game. Brown surrounded his young point guard Ben Simmons with shooters at every position. Brown gave more minutes to bench players Ersan Illyasova and Marco Belinelli and conclusively gave them both the green light to shoot. This proved detrimental to the Heat, who are known for their stingy defense, as they couldn’t keep up with the fast pace and quick shooting of the Sixers. Center Hassan Whiteside had trouble defending Illyasova at the five position, and the final product resulted in a 130-103 decimation by the Sixers.
However, there is a reason that teams play an entire series in the playoffs. Like a heavyweight fight, it was Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s turn to retaliate with a few punches of his own. He learned from the mistakes of his team in game one and devised a brilliant coaching plan to slow down the pace of this fast Sixers team. He ratcheted up the defense, allowing Sixers shooters no space, and fouled frequently to slow the pace of the game and take the flow from a transitional pace to a begrudging half-court game, which heavily favors Miami. Despite some abysmal shooting from Philly, the Sixers were able to keep it close, as Ben Simmons single-handedly fought his team back into the game.
However, it was not enough. Game three on Thursday marked the return of Joel Embiid, who missed more than a month due to a facial injury. He did not disappoint in his return as he breathed swagger and confidence into a Sixers squad that desperately needed it. 73 percent of teams that win game three go on to win the series. Game three proved to be the most entertaining matchup between the two squads as tempers that began to build in the previous two games finally boiled over. A total of six players were each given technical fouls as they could not stop chirping at one another. Whether it was Joel Embiid having at it with Justice Winslow, Dwayne Wade yanking Justin Anderson into the stands or Goran Dragic flexing in the face of Marco Belinelli, it made beautiful television and showed how these two teams have come to hate each other.
Despite every narrative and all the theatrics on the court, Philly was able to walk away with the win, which is pretty huge. Philly needed at least one win in Miami to stay alive in this series, and it was impressive to see the Sixers handle themselves and stick to their business, despite all the trash talk and rage that was flying around the court. Philadelphia is the far superior team, which is why they are the three seed and Miami is the six seed. Momentum can swing either way in a series like this and you could quickly find yourself trailing in a series despite being the better team. Miami made a ridiculous amount of shots in game three, yet Philadelphia was able to stay right there with them. It has shown how quickly this team has matured and how dangerous they can be when the shots are falling. If they stick to what they’ve been doing for the first three games of the series, they shouldn’t have any trouble polishing off Miami and moving on to the second round. It is a comforting feeling to have confidence in the 76ers once again, and we should be in for an eventful and deep playoff run.
Connor Sodak is a fourth-year student majoring in communications and minoring in journalism. ✉ CS824220@wcupa.edu.