The Quad

Sixers claim no. 3 seed

Connor Sodak, Practicum Writer

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The NBA regular season has come and gone and to much of the delight of fans, playoffs are officially underway; 16 teams will compete to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. As fun as the regular season is, there isn’t much that competes with the level of playoff basketball. Players seem to turn it up a notch and the competitiveness is unmatched. Despite the buzz surrounding impressive teams such as the Raptors, Warriors and Rockets, the talk of the town going into the playoffs has been none other than our Philadelphia 76ers. For the past month and a half they have been the hottest team in basketball and are going into the playoffs on an extraordinary 16-game win streak. No other team in history has finished their season and started the playoffs with such a streak.

The Sixers are playing some of the best basketball in the league right now and are entering the playoffs white hot. It seems that everything has come together for this team at the right time. Ben Simmons has transformed into one of the best point guards in the league, J.J. Redick has lived up to his gaudy contract, mid-season signings like Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilaysova have made a huge impact and first round pick Markelle Fultz is finally coming into his own after sitting out most of the season.

They’ve also been winning without one of their best players, Joel Embiid, who’s been out with an injury for nearly a month. As fun as this season was for the Sixers and their fans, it is time to turn it up a level in order for a deep playoff run. The Sixers won their way into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, and despite being the embarrassment of the league in years past, many people are picking these Sixers to potentially reach the Conference Finals. To think that this team could go all the way to the conference finals after winning a total of 38 games in the past two years is absolutely absurd. However, when you actually see the path the Sixers might take, it is very possible that they could be one of the final four teams remaining.

Their first-round matchup is the No. 6 seeded Miami Heat, who gave Philadelphia some trouble in the regular season. Miami is an enigma of a team, wherein they have young talent that has underperformed and old veterans who they can’t let go of. Despite this, they’ve fought their way into the playoffs which basically is the start a new season.

Miami has the advantage in experience and coaching. Erik Spoelstra is one of the experienced coaches in the playoffs and knows what it takes to win a playoff series. He has two championships under his belt from the days of the Big Three, which is nothing to sneeze at. Miami still has Dwayne Wade as well, who might go down as one of the most clutch players in NBA history, and always seems to bury a dagger in the Sixers’ hearts whenever they match up. Let’s not forget dominant big-man Hassan Whiteside, whose had some social media run-ins with the Twitter king, Joel Embiid.

Looking at all of this, the Heat are no doubt a scary matchup and a tough task for the Sixers so early in the playoffs. However, do I think that Miami will win this series? No. Despite everything Miami has, Philadelphia is simply more talented and if they perform how they’ve been this past month, they should dispose of the Heat swiftly. Philly also has home-court advantage and have won all but one game in Wells Fargo Center since New Year’s.

Let’s look at the second round matchup, where the Sixers would face the winner between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. Let’s assume that Boston takes this series and faces off against Philly in the Eastern semifinals. Again, Boston has the coaching advantage with Brad Stevens leading this team to the No. 2 seed despite losing his best player, Kyrie Irving, for the season due to injury. However, the loss of Kyrie Irving is nothing to glance over. The Celtics are a collection of role players and have been looking for their identity ever since Irving went down. They aren’t as intimidating as the Raptors or Cavaliers, and roll out one of the youngest starting lineups in the league. Despite the veteran presence of Al Horford, young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier don’t have much playoff experience and lead their team in minutes played. It is very possible to see Philly come out of this matchup victorious with the level of basketball they’ve been playing. They have better shooting, more talent and more chemistry than the Celtics. As good as Boston’s defense is, they will only be able to contain the dominance of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid for so long. Like I said, after breaking down this potential path that Philly would take, it is hard to believe that they couldn’t reach the Conference Finals. It is safe to say that The Process has worked, and as ugly as it was, Sam Hinkie’s master plan is finally taking form even earlier than we anticipated. The Eastern Conference has been put on notice: Watch out for the 76ers.

Connor Sodak is a fourth-year student  majoring in communications and minoring in journalism. ✉ [email protected].

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Sixers claim no. 3 seed