Tonight marks the first close-out game for the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center since Andre Iguodala jumped on the scorer’s table after beating the Chicago Bulls six years ago.
That... was a long time ago. Back then, Sixers’ fans affectionately referred to the team’s bench as “The Night Shift”. Back then, some of us were still throwing up the #ShowYaLuv hand sign from the 2011 playoff “run”. It was so long ago that Tom Lamaine was the Sixers’ public address announcer, and Jodie Meeks was more than a half-decade away from getting busted for PEDs.
Given the recent history (or lack thereof) of postseason success, it’s safe to say that the Sixers’ fan base has a lot of pent-up energy. And that energy means that 20,000+ rally flags will be whipping throughout the arena tonight as Team #PhilaUnite attempts to close things out against the Heat.
#OnBrand x #PhilaUnite pic.twitter.com/BdfPdTbmp9— Chris Heck (@chrisheck76) April 23, 2018
(FWIW, rally towels are better, but I heard they got held up in customs, so what can you do?)
The fact that the 76ers are favored by ten points out in Vegas says pretty much all you need to know about this one. Let’s think about this for a second... in Miami’s only win in this series, the Sixers (sans Joel Hans Embiid) shot 7-for-36 from deep, and the Heat STILL needed a vintage performance from Dwyane Wade to pull out a victory.
Brett Brown’s squad is averaging a ridiculous 116.8 PPG against the Heat, and the Sixers have outscored Miami in the fourth quarters of games by an average of 10.5 points. Despite their relative lack of playoff experience, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Co. have shown absolutely zero propensity to back down from a Heat team that needs to muck it up in order to be competitive.
There isn’t much need for the Sixers to deviate from the gameplan that got them here: Push the tempo, attack Hassan Whiteside early and often, and exploit the talent mismatches (especially with the second unit).
It’s win-or-go-home for the Heat, so expect Erik Spolestra to pull out all of the stops tonight. But Miami simply doesn’t have the horses to keep up with the Sixers, so there’s a very good chance this series doesn’t head back to South Beach.
Game Time: 8:00 PM
TV: NBCSports Philadelphia / TNT
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic