There's an old adage used often in sports that "it isn't a loss if you learn from it." For the Sixers, in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and boasting a line up of youngsters which has never seen postseason play, the Game 2 loss to the Heat in the first round of the playoffs may be just what the team needs as it tries to exceed relatively new and high expectations.
The setback, 113-103 Monday night may not only help the team avoid the hubris that comes from ease of success (the loss ended a 17-game winning streak, tied for the longest in franchise history) but also could serve as a gut punch to help prepare the team for what it hopes will be a long and educational playoff run.
"To me, it's the reality of NBA basketball and it will only get harder," head coach Brett Brown, who has four championship rings from his days as an assistant coach for the Spurs, said. "Our guys will learn more about themselves than they've learned in the regular season for however long we play in the playoffs. We haven't lost since March 13 and this game equals the NBA playoffs. This is a snapshot of what you should expect when a team is going to go down 2-0 if they are unable to find a win."
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After trailing by as many as 16 points late in the third quarter, the Sixers cut the lead to just two and were a few breaks away from an opportunity to go ahead 2-0 as the series shifts to Miami (on Thursday). Instead, the Heat have the chance to protect home court advantage and the Sixers are losers for the first time in over a month. For team leaders like Ben Simmons and veteran J.J. Redick, the loss could set an even bigger spark.
"It's unsettling," Redick said of the loss. "I think that we as a group haven't been through the fire of the playoffs. This will sharpen you, strengthen you as a player and as a man and as a group. Games like this I think are good for us, but it doesn't feel good with us."
"We really wanted that win," Simmons added, but on to the next game."
The Sixers lost both their games in Miami this season, and have not won at American Airlines Arena since just after LeBron James left South Beach — their last win coming on December 23 of 2014. Michael Carter-Williams and Luc Mbah a Moute were Philly's leading scorers in the game on a team that would win just 18 games.
A lot has changed since then, and the healthy return of Joel Embiid could help the Sixers finally get a 'W' in South Florida.
Or perhaps the hunger, pain and chip on the shoulder gained from a letdown in Game 2 can fuel a series victory — starting with a successful visit to Miami this Thursday.