Philadelphia 76ers Storm Into NBA Playoffs

76ers Center Joel Embiid celebrates with teammates Ben Simmons and Dario Saric.

76ers Center Joel Embiid celebrates with teammates Ben Simmons and Dario Saric.

Rhys Levine, Sports Editor

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In a decade that has seen heartbreak after heartbreak for professional athletics in the city of Philadelphia, 2018 has been a glimmering ray of hope for those dedicated to Philly sports. From Villanova’s NCAA championship win to the Eagles, who won their first championship in the Super Bowl era, no single year has seen Philadelphia athletics perform at such a level for a long time. And now, with the NBA Playoffs finally upon us, the Philadelphia 76ers, a young team rife with talent, looks to add to the city’s growing list of accomplishments.

Led by All-Star Center Joel Embiid and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ben Simmons, the young 76ers squad has put the league on notice: Philly came to play. Despite injuries to number one overall pick Markelle Fultz and the aforementioned Embiid, the Sixers managed to string together an impressive 2017-18 campaign. Finishing out the regular season at 52-30, including a 16-game winning streak to close out the season, the Sixers looked hotter than any other team in the league heading into the postseason.

In their first round matchup against the always dangerous Miami Heat, the Sixers came out swinging, embarrassing the Heat in a 130-103 Game 1 blowout. Marco Belinelli, a recent pickup by the Sixers, dominated, pitching in 25 points coming off the bench. Simmons, meanwhile, nearly completed a triple-double, with 17 points, 14 assists, and 9 rebounds.

The Heat, however, proved that although they were down, they were far from out. Game 2 saw a strategic change by Miami, including a plan to neutralize Ben Simmons on the offensive end of the floor. The Heat placed two men on Simmons, and, in the second quarter, the Sixers scored only 13 points. Miami also performed exceptionally on offense, including a 28 point outburst from the Heat’s “Father Prime,” Dwyane Wade.

Heading into Game 3, the Heat had brought into question the offensive capabilities of the Sixers in the face of double-teaming Simmons. Luckily for the Sixers, Simmons returned to form, in part due to the return of Joel Embiid, who was listed as “doubtful” prior to the game. In his first playoff appearance, Embiid scored 23 and grabbed 7 rebounds, shutting down all doubt surrounding his return. Sixers fans voiced their thoughts on the team moving forward.

“I can see them going to the Conference Finals or the NBA Finals,” said Brandon Johnson, Sixers fan and A.I.’s Junior Varsity Basketball Coach.

Varsity Basketball Coach Mark VanKerKhoven also expressed his ideas on the performance of the Sixers, specifically concerning the young group’s ability to readjust after Game.

“I’m curious to see how they can bounce back from losing after an 18 game winning streak,” said VanKerKhoven. “It depends on whether or not they can learn to adapt to Simmons getting double-teamed and Wayne Ellington guarding J.J. Redick.”

Yet even those knowledgeable of the NBA are finding it difficult to pinpoint how the Sixers can perform moving forward. When asked about the odds of the Sixers bringing home a championship, VanKerKhoven simply smiled and responded “1/16.”

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