After the 76ers pulled out a win in game 1 of their first round the world was ready to crown them as the eastern conference favorites. Ben Simmons and the rest of the crew were electric in that game. Philadelphia shot over 64% from three and forced 16 Miami turnovers. The Sixers routed the Heat 130-103 and were confirming a lot of what people thought may be true. The 76ers are for real.
But are they really? Yes, there may not be another team with so much young talent as the 76ers. The future for this team is bright. The only other teams that much up with their future, in my opinion, would be the Celtics and maybe the Nuggets. This team has 2 stars in Simmons and Embiid surrounded by a host of great role players that complement them well.
Both of these players should have a long career of solid playoff runs and even NBA championship appearances. However, I am not convinced that this year is going to be one of those times. Here are my reasons why.
The 76ers are overrated
Philadelphia has done everything to deserve the 3 seed in the eastern conference, but they are not the 3rd best team in this conference. At the end of the season the 76ers went on an impressive 16 game winning streak without Joel Embiid. No matter who they are playing in those games I do note this as a positive thing.
What I don’t do though is over value this 16 game stretch. In those games the Sixers beat the following teams: Knicks (2x), Nets (2x), Hornets (2x), Magic, Timberwolves (without Butler), Hawks (2x), Pistons, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Bucks, and Nuggets. The only notable wins here are the Wolves without Butler, Bucks, Cavs, and Nuggets. Is this really that impressive when 11 of your 16 game winning streak comes against teams that are trying to lose games?
Again, I really don’t want to downplay the team’s success this season. They have had an impressive year and I can’t wait to see them dominate in the future. I do, however, want to slam on the breaks. Their next 5 games in this series won’t be against a team trying to lose. They’ll see maximum effort each game.
They also seem more and more likely to miss Embiid for the entire series. The 76ers are a much worse team without Embiid. During their “win streak” to end the season they went 8-0 without Joel. Outside of these games they were 3-7 without Embiid. They struggled against teams like Chicago and Sacramento over this 10 game stretch.
Home Court Advantage is Even For Now
After the 76ers lost the second game of the series they also lost a tight grip onto home court. Now a team that has been 22-19 on the road this season is in a position where they must steal at least one game on the road. For a young playoff team playing against a more experienced team and coach, this won’t be easy. The experience of facing road teams crowd in the playoffs is going to be brand new for many of these guys, especially their best players.
Coaching Adjustments Favor Miami
The playoffs are all about making adjustments. Whoever can adjust better is going to have the best chance. After Philly shot a ridiculous 64% from three in the first game the Heat adjusted. Spoelstra had his Heat players right up on the Sixers and not backing off. They weren’t going to give up a three unless it were hotly contested. This worked well as the 76ers were only able to shoot 19% from three point land in the second game.
Brett Brown is not a proven head coach in the playoffs yet. It would be silly to assume he is going to be able to match whatever Spoelstra comes up with. Brown has done a fabulous job this season, but there is no reason to believe he has what it takes to match one of the league’s best minds when it comes strictly to making game to game adjustments in the playoffs.
A Dog Fight Favors Miami
Miami wants a scrappy fight. They want to win with defense and close games. They don’t have a star player to lean on to takeover. Any player can lead them in scoring on a given night, whether it’s one of the Johnson’s, D-Wade, Whiteside, or Dragic.
On the other hand Philadelphia leans heavily on Ben Simmons to score and create offense. If this isn’t working and Philadelphia has to scrap for points then they are in deep trouble.
Rookies aren’t Proven
It doesn’t bode well for a playoff run when your team’s best player is a rookie. We’ve seen this happen with rookies like Oscar Robertson, Shaquille O’neal, Michael Jordan, and Carmelo Anthony. All of these players led their respective teams to the playoffs but were defeated in the first round.
Most recently in 2004 The Denver Nuggets leaned heavily on Carmelo Anthony to carry their offense. He wasn’t the same type of passer Simmons is, but he was a dynamic scorer. The load was too much for Melo and the Nuggets lost in 5 games.
It is rare to see a rookie carry their team past the first or second round. Guys like Kareem and LeBron didn’t even make the playoffs. Tim Duncan was able to get to the second round in 1998 but he had a hell of a team around him with veterans like David Robinson and unbelievable coaching. He wasn’t carrying the load like Simmons is.
If Embiid were available for the entire series my mind may have been changed about their chances. Two dynamic rookies are much better than one. Not a single one of these reasons alone are enough to call for the Heat to push past the Sixers, but when you look at all of them collectively you can begin to see how Philadelphia could be sent home early by the Heat.