For years, Philadelphia 76ers fans were left in the lurch to watch and even pay for miserable, insulting basketball, holding on to the promise of “The Process” paying future dividends for their patience and loyalty.
It appears to have been worthwhile.
“The Process” has officially reached the early stages of fruition and has done so ahead of schedule punctuated by Tuesday’s 104-91 Game 5 win over the Miami Heat to conclude a dominant first-round playoff debut by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
It’s a series that very well could have been a sweep had Embiid been able to play in Miami’s Game 2 victory. No matter. Once the best player in the series stepped on the court, there was little hope in Miami of a further Dwyane Wade renaissance.
Wade was fantastic in Game 2, showing flashes of his brilliant prime that collected three Larry O’Brien trophies and a certain first-round ticket to the Hall of Fame. But that was a nice story for one night. It’s officially the Sixers’ time to shine and, with good health, it appears that it will be for some time.
Philadelphia had hands-down the two best players on the court during this series along with a cast of shooters and ball handlers that the Heat simply could not match up with.
Simmons became the first rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980 to record a triple-double in a playoff game during Saturday’s Game 4 after coming up one rebound short of the feat in Game 1. He averaged 19.3 points 10.8 points and eight rebounds through the first four games of a series where he sometimes seemed to get to the basket at will.
Can’t shoot? No big deal, he just drove and dunked en route to a 51.8 percent field goal percentage. Simmons capped the series with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists on Tuesday.
Embiid returned from his orbital fracture for a triumphant Game 3 playoff debut on the heels of his Instagram tantrum after missing the first two games. He immediately commenced trolling the Miami crowd and taunting his opponents. He wasn’t perfect in his first two games playing with a mask, but made a monster impact on the court while averaging 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and four blocks. He logged 19 points, 12 rebounds and a block in Tuesday’s win.
His defense was commanding, almost immediately rendering Miami center Hassan Whiteside — once the Heat’s best hope for the future — a liability on the court. After Embiid entered the series, Whiteside found much of his game time parked on the bench.
The Sixers got 27 points from J.J. Redick on Tuesday, a 5-for-10 three-point performance that marked his turn amongst a cast of role players including Marco Belinelli and Dario Saric who made an impact on the series.
For the Heat, they move on to wonder about whether Wade will return for another season in Miami and how they’re supposed to compete in an Eastern Conference moving forward with this kind of young talent.
For the Sixers, it’s on to round two against the winner of the Bucks and Celtics. If the Celtics hold on after taking a 3-2 series lead earlier Tuesday, it could be a preview of playoff matches to come for years down the road.
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