To say the Philadelphia 76ers first round matchup against the Miami Heat is physical is an understatement. Technical fouls have been a major storyline through four games, as each team has drawn the ire of the referees on several occasions. In just four games the Miami Heat have figured out how to push the Sixers buttons, and while the Sixers have a 3-1 lead in the series each game feels like a war. The Heat have seemingly embraced the role of the villain, and by doing so have forced the Sixers to grow from a young team with their first taste of playoff basketball to a group who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in order to win.
Starting in the beginning fo the season the Sixers weren’t a team that would back away from a fight, but they also weren’t a team that would search for one. If this series is anything, it feels like it has made the team come full circle. As the season progressed even the most common fan could see the Sixers becoming a meaner team, and now that has been put to the test against the wannabe “Bad Boy” Miami Heat. Whether it was Ben Simmons going face to face with James Johnson and his black belt that every broadcast needs to mention or Justin Anderson trying to mix it up with future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, the Sixers showed that they can get physical when they need to in order to provide a spark.
Not every game is going to be pretty, so the fact that the Sixers have been showing recently that they can win an ugly game is a big step in the right direction toward the big picture of an NBA Title. In most instances the team with the better talent ends up winning the war, which is what can be seen in this playoff series, but on the off chance the lesser team can scrap out a win it is good to see the Sixers ability to negate that through their new style of physical basketball. There are still some obvious flaws with this team, but they’re adapting to the surroundings and winning these tough games without much experience from their big guns, which is saying a lot about the talent level as well as their willingness to scrap for wins.
For most of the year Ben Simmons has been soft spoken about his first NBA season, but now when the lights are the brightest he’s flourishing in his role as top dog, not backing down from any challenge. It sets the team up well for not only now, but also for future success. The sense of swagger that this team has because of their top stars and big personalities makes the Sixers a dangerous team, and one that will only grow with this playoff exposure.
The rest of the NBA may have thought they could have pushed the Sixers around in their first taste of the playoffs, but no one could have expected the Sixers to push back the way they have. This new “take no prisoners” mindset is helping them grow, and that won’t just stop after this year. The Sixers are ready to go toe to toe with some of the leagues best, and they sure won’t shy away from getting physical. Playing one of the NBA’s scrappiest teams in the first round could end up being a blessing in disguise, as the lessons learned from this round can be carried out for years to come.