It’s been a season of firsts for the Sixers.
The first playoff berth since 2012, the first team to win 50-plus games since 2001, the first rookie to have 12 triple doubles since 1961, and the first playoff series for the fruits of The Process — Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and company.
And with a 3-1 series lead as the Sixers return home to face the Heat, at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, another first is on the horizon: the first chance to close out a series — and be the first team in the East to move on.
While many Sixers contributors have never been here before, a handful have. J.J. Redick is the veteran in the locker room and knows from his days with the Clippers how tough it can be to slam the door shut in the postseason.
“You have to deliver a crushing blow,” Redick said. “You have to finish them. A team like Miami, their group of guys, they have fighters, they have warriors on their team. Every game in this series has been tough. There’s no indication Game 5 will be any different.”
Blow is a particularly illustrative term. The Heat and Sixers have played a physical series, exchanging eight technical fouls in four games — eight of 30 technical fouls called throughout the entire playoffs thus far.
From playful shoving and trash talking to Justice Winslow stomping on Embiid’s mask, to hard screens and everything in between, the Heat-76ers series has been everything fans have hoped for and more. And it could be amplified with the Heat up against the wall Tuesday night.
“You don’t have to be a wise man to know what is about to happen,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said, “and what style of play they are going to play, especially if they are going to be going home if they can’t find a way to win.”
Brown, a student of the game and experienced playoff assistant from his days with the Spurs dynasty teams from the last decade and a half, is ready for Tuesday and knows how important it is to stop the Heat before they gain confidence prior to a potential Game 6 back in Miami.
“When you study 3-1 series, and I have all weekend, you see different things you are mindful of,” Brown said Monday.” The defensive side of things is always number 1 for me, and then just the discipline of team basketball offensively is a really close second.”