The Philadelphia 76ers have advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals thanks to a Game 5 win over the Miami Heat.
Trust The Process.
It has been the refrain of the Philadelphia 76ers and their fans for years now, and the Sixers took the next step in The Process with a 104-91 Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat. Philadelphia is now off to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2012, with the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks awaiting them.
It was a festive atmosphere all night in Philadelphia. The crowd was fired up even before the game with the appearance of rapper Meek Mill to ring the bell after his release from prison, and the Sixers gave their fans plenty to cheer about with a huge second half.
The first half was nothing to write home about, with both teams struggling to find their rhythm en route to a 46-46 halftime score. But the Heat turned in yet another poor third quarter, and Philly took advantage to open up a 14-point lead heading to the final frame.
It looked like the Sixers were going to cruise to victory once they went up 18 points early in the fourth quarter, but the Heat had one last gasp in them as the home team suffered through a stretch of ugly offense. Miami had a chance to cut its deficit down to five midway through the fourth quarter, but Dwyane Wade missed a 3-pointer and it never got closer than eight.
J.J. Redick put the nail in the coffin with his fifth 3-pointer of the night with just over two minutes to play. Redick put forth a splendid performance with a team-best 27 points and plus-23 plus-minus.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both recorded double-doubles. Embiid had 19 points, 12 rebounds and was a plus-22, while Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to close out a terrific first playoff series in which he nearly averaged a triple-double.
Kelly Olynyk had 18 points off the bench to lead Miami.
The 76ers look ready for a deep playoff run. The Eastern Conference is wide open, and right now there’s little reason to think the Sixers can’t make it to the NBA Finals. Philly didn’t even play all that well in Game 5, yet the game wasn’t close for much of the second half. When this team gets clicking, they can beat just about anybody.
With Embiid back, the Sixers are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Simmons is playing well beyond his years and puts a ton of pressure on opposing defenses when he gets out in the open court. Dario Saric didn’t play well in Game 5, but he was really good for most of the series. Redick, Robert Covington, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova are a solid crew of veterans who can all shoot it from deep. This squad is confident and versatile.
Looking ahead, the Celtics are short-handed and the Bucks are talented yet underwhelming. Philly will be the favorite no matter the opponent. The Sixers have things to clean up, especially when it comes to turnovers, but they look ready to make a lot of noise.
Hassan Whiteside capped off a rough series with another dud. Whiteside was ineffective throughout this series, so it was only fitting that he would go out meekly. The Heat big man had two points on 0-of-4 shooting and was a minus-14 in just 10 minutes. He fumbled passes and was beaten defensively. It was an all-around bad showing, although at least he showed a modicum of hustle with four offensive rebounds.
Miami’s cap situation isn’t pretty, and one reason is Whiteside is due $25.4 million next season and then has a $27.1 million player option for 2019-20. It’s almost impossible to see him turning that down. While the 28-year-old isn’t useless, this series showed off his significant shortcomings. It will be interesting to see how the Heat navigate this situation, and their cap situation in general.
Hopefully this isn’t the end for Dwyane Wade. Wade had a few vintage games in this series. He was the biggest reason why the Heat won Game 2. He couldn’t summon that magic in Game 5 as he scored just 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting, but he was a team-best plus-7 and tallied five rebounds and five assists.
Now, we wait and see if this is the end for the future Hall of Famer. Wade has said it’s either staying with the Heat or retirement, and he’ll likely take some time to decide. He clearly still has some gas left in the tank at age 36, but he doesn’t have much left to prove and could choose to hang up the sneakers. Hopefully that’s not the case.