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76ers return to playoffs in style and blow out Heat

Jason Patt

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Apr 14, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) reacts in front of Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) and forward Justise Winslow (20) after hi dunk during the third quarter in game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After the painful years of Trusting The Process, Philadelphia 76ers fans at Wells Fargo Arena were hyped to see their beloved team back in the postseason. The Sixers gave those fans plenty to cheer for by destroying the Miami Heat, 130-103, in Game 1 of their first-round series.

Philly did this without the injured Joel Embiid, who’s still recovering from a broken face.

The Sixers used a tour de force performance in the second half to turn the game into a laugher. After trailing by four points heading into halftime, Sixers head coach Brett Brown made a key adjustment by swapping out Amir Johnson for Ersan Ilyasova to start the third quarter. Goran Dragic hit a 3-pointer to start the second-half scoring, but Philly then went on a 15-0 run with its new lineup and never looked back.

The Sixers outscored the Heat 74-43 in the second half, using their spread offense to scorch the nets while also locking down Miami’s attack. Philly shot 11-of-15 from long range in the second half and made a whopping 18 3-pointers on the game. J.J. Redick scored 23 of his team-high 28 points in the second half.

Ben Simmons had an eventful playoff debut, narrowly missing a triple-double with 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. The rookie didn’t shoot all that well and was jittery at times, but he was mostly outstanding on both ends of the floor. Plus, he did this:

Fellow Processers Dario Saric and Robert Covington were also terrific. Saric poured in 20 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists, while Covington played his usual exemplary defense. Covington stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

Let’s take a look at a few other takeaways from this blowout that had Sixers fans chanting “Trust The Process” as the clock ran out.

76ers’ late-season additions flourish

The Sixers added Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli after they were bought out by the Atlanta Hawks. It’s not often that late-season additions from the buyout market really help teams in the playoffs, but both players were key contributors down the stretch and rose to the occasion in Game 1.

After a sluggish start, Ilyasova rewarded Brown’s faith in him with a terrific second half. Brown went to Ilyasova to better space the floor and make life tough for Hassan Whiteside, and it worked like a charm. Ilyasova had 17 points and 14 rebounds and completely flipped his script after a poor first half.

Meanwhile, Belinelli was taking and making crazy shots from all over the floor. The Italian Stallion dropped in a playoff career-high 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He added four triples and was a game-high plus-27. This was the kind of night it was:

The Whiteside Conundrum

Whiteside was a complete disaster. The Heat big man had two points, six rebounds and two blocks in just 12 minutes, and the Heat were outscored by 16 points in those limited minutes. He was slow to react to the Sixers’ offense and had zero hope defensively when Philly spread Miami out.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra probably should have yanked Whiteside almost immediately when things started going south in the second half, especially given how productive Kelly Olynyk was. Olynyk had 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting and is a much better option when Embiid isn’t on the court.

Miami is going to need Whiteside to stay focused and engaged despite this dud. While he was played off the floor in Game 1, he should be useful when Embiid returns to action.

Dragic, Richardson struggle

Whiteside wasn’t the only Heat player to disappoint in Game 1. Dragic had a rough go of it, shooting 4-of-14, turning the ball over four times and committing five fouls. The All-Star did hit three of his four triples, but he only went 1-of-10 on 2-pointers as he struggled against the Sixers’ length.

The underrated Josh Richardson also had a night to forget. Richardson made just one of his seven shots and missed all four of his 3-pointers, with a few ugly misses on open looks. He was a game-worst minus-30.

The Heat will need these key players to bounce back in Game 2 on Monday night.

Jason recently served as the Content Manager of FanRag Sports' NBA coverage and also contributes to SB Nation's Blog a Bull and FanSided's NBA coverage. He grew up a Chicago sports fan, and his first vivid sports memory was of John Paxson beating the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals. You can follow him on Twitter @Bulls_Jay

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