Process believers and Process deniers are no longer distinctions in Philadelphia. After Tuesday night’s 104-91 win over the Miami Heat — clinching a playoff series win for the first time since 2012 — The Process has already surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations.
Even after starting slow, the Sixers showed that their surplus of talent can turn a game on a dime, as Philly did at the Wells Fargo Center in the first round’s decisive Game 5. A 34-20 third quarter blew the roof off an already buzzing arena that welcomed rapper Meek Mill straight out of jail and onto center court to ring the bell pregame.
J.J. Redick was en fuego from downtown, scoring 15 of his 27 points from beyond the arc. Joel Embiid got his typical monstrous big man numbers accumulating 19 points and 12 rebounds as the pair paced the Sixers. And of course, Ben Simmons — even with an early fourth foul scored 14 points while turning in 6 assists and 10 rebounds.
A productive third quarter led to a relentless fourth, with the Sixers maintaining a solid lead as high as 18 points throughout the stanza.
With the Celtics and Bucks battling until at least a Game 6 (Boston leads 3-2), if not a Game 7, the Sixers will have the luxury of resting up Embiid and other key players as they prepare for Round 2, set to start sometime this weekend.
The Sixers weren’t shy about attacking the rim and being aggressive early, but a very early 8-3 advangtage evaporated as Miami took a 15-13 lead midway through the first (with Philly shooting an ugly 4-for-their-first-15). A fired up Simmons ran past every Heat defender for a one handed slam to get Philly back up 19-15. After 12 minutes had elapsed the 76ers led 23-21.
The shooting woes continued, with the speed and length of the Sixers’ defense helping to hold the Heat to a 37.8 percent clip from the field in the first half — Philly shot just 38.1 percent. Particularly cold was Dario Saric, missing his first five shot attempts as the Sixers and Heat found things tied at 44-all with seconds left in the half.
J.J. Redick earned the ninth technical foul of the series just before halftime, but was able to hit a pair of free throws to get the Sixers back into a tie before the horn.
A 10th series tech came after Goran Dragic gave Simmons a little smack in the back of the head as he drove to the basket. Robert Covington drained a three after the made free throw to give the Sixers its then largest lead. Which was doubled four minutes later after another Covington three, Philadelphia leading 66-54.
The door flew off as the third continued, with the Sixers improving their shooting, making 12-of-24 shots in the frame. The defense didn’t waiver, with the Heat scoring just 20 points in the third while shooting even worse than they did in the first half.
A cold stretch followed in the fourth, with an 18-point lead fizzling to just eight thanks to a 10-0 run — stopped only after yet another ugly play saw James Johnson collide with two Sixers’ players (getting the series’ 11th technical) and gave Philly three made free throws to up their lead back to a comfortable 11.