Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are rising stars.
Even potentially Hall of Famers, though that’s to be determined.
The magnitude of the playoffs doesn't seem to be too much for the 76ers’ dynamic duo. They’re thriving in every way imaginable.
Embiid had 14 points, 12 rebounds and five huge blocked shots even with the mask over his healing orbital bone under his eye.
Simmons became the first rookie in Sixers history to compile a triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He’s only the fifth player in league history to record a triple-double as a rookie. Magic Johnson accomplished the feat with the Lakers in 1980 when he led them to a championship over the Sixers.
The Sixers played very poorly in Game Four Saturday in Miami, turning the ball over, missing 3-pointers and looked very disjointed at times. And they still won. Why?
Primarily veteran leadership.
JJ Redick, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli came up with clutch plays when the Sixers needed them most. It was Redick who sealed the win with a late baseline jumper to deflate the home crowd and propel the Sixers to a 3-1 series advantage with a potential clinching Game Five coming Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
“We got to go through this as a group for the first time,” Redick told reporters “Things happen in the Playoffs that don’t happen during the regular season, and they happen with frequency. It’s Game Four, and by this time, you are annoyed by the other team. I thought we handled it well. With the stakes being what they are, the emotions are going to be high.”
Redick led the way with 24 points while Ilyasova and Belinelli had 10 points each. Those 44 points didn’t win the game. Their leadership was noticeable whenever the game got tight. This young group of Sixers does need veterans. As the playoffs progress – and the Sixers are on the verge of moving on to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2012 – veterans will pay dividends.
Between the experience and this ever-improving youth, look out. The Sixers are for real.
“It feels great. We took care of business,” Embiid told reporters. “Like I said, ‘I love the physicality.’ I missed the shots that I was making the other night. I thought I did other things to have an impact, especially defensively. I’m pretty happy about things.”
Amazingly, the Sixers committed 24 turnovers entering the fourth quarter. They only turned the ball three times in the final 12 minutes and that during some tense moments when the Heat got within one point in the final minute.
The Sixers found a way to win.
“The thing that most stood out is we flipped our whole discipline in the fourth period,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said on the podium. “We guarded, and we stayed more on our game plan than we did in the first three periods.”
In the end, the Sixers won for the third time in this series. One more victory and they’re moving on. At one juncture this season, they were 14-18. They didn’t have Ilyasova and Belinelli. They do now.
Check the win column. Veterans matter.