PHILADELPHIA >> Sometime between accepting years of failure and finding a team that rarely stumbles, Brett Brown shifted all expectations for the 76ers.

Where once it was unreasonable to expect a spot in the postseason, there was the Sixers’ coach, about a month ago, saying that not even the playoffs would be enough.

He admitted being greedy. He wanted more. He warned his players against, as he’s said multiple times, “clicking their heels” and being satisfied with just being in the NBA’s Sweet 16.

By Thursday, that new reality had arrived.

By Saturday night at 8, when the Miami Heat will visit the Wells Fargo Center for Game 1 of an opening-round playoff series, the Sixers will have an opportunity to give their coach what he wants: Advancement.

“At this point, we all should be saying, ‘Who knows?’” Brown told reporters Thursday in Camden. “It’s ready, fire, aim. And you figure it out.”

The third-seeded Sixers (52-30) will engage the sixth-seeded Heat (44-38) in a best-of-seven and in a contrast of styles. Brown’s team prefers playing fast and shooting quickly, often using small lineups, particularly in the absence of injured center Joel Embiid.

The Heat is anchored by 7-0 power center Hassan Whiteside and often will play a more deliberate pace. The season series was 2-2, with both teams winning their home games.

Though the Sixers have some experienced players in J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova and Amir Johnson, among others, they are young in more than one way. Ben Simmons, the presumptive Rookie of the Year, is central to their success, but he has never played a postseason game in college or in the NBA. And the Sixers, as a program, are new to the process, having not been in the postseason since 2012.

Behind team president Pat Riley and veteran coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat won back-to-back NBA championships as recently as 2013, even with drastically better personnel.

“I go to their culture,” Brown said of the Heat. “I have tremendous respect for Coach Riley and the legacy that he is building with Spo. Look at it organizationally. They really haven’t blinked in many, many years. They are very Spurs-like to me. They have played repetitively late in seasons and in big games and have won championships.”

The Sixers will not have Embiid in Game 1, as he continues to recover from surgery on a left-eye orbital bone. From there, the center said he will be “day-to-day.” The Sixers, though, have won all eight of their games without Embiid and are on a 16-game winning streak.

“We hold each other accountable,” Justin Anderson said. “It’s such a great mix in the locker room, veterans to young guys who are hungry to learn and ready to succeed.”


For games in March and April, Brown was named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. The last Sixers coach so honored was Doug Collins in 2011. The Sixers were 20-3 in that time.


Simmons was the Eastern Conference March-April Rookie of the Month. He averaged 13.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 10.1 assists. In a meaningful 132-130 victory over visiting Cleveland, Simmons had 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. He was the April 2-8 Eastern Conference Player of the Week.


The Sixers will play Games 1 and 2 at home, Saturday and Monday, both at 8 p.m. Game 3 will be in Miami Thursday night at 7. Game 4, in Miami, will be next Saturday afternoon at 2:30.

If necessary, the Sixers will host Game 5 Tuesday April 24. Game 6 would be in Miami Thursday April 26. Game 7 would be at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday April 28. Starting times have not been announced.

comments powered by Disqus