76ers aim to take next step in process vs. Heat
Even as the Philadelphia 76ers exceeded expectations this season, those who have indeed trusted the process still could not have imagined the team's quick ascension to the NBA's elite.
Joel Embiid, for one, isn't about to pump the brakes on what has been a whirlwind ride that has the 76ers heading into their Game 5 home matchup on Tuesday sporting a 3-1 lead over the visiting Miami Heat.
"A lot of people say we have a bright future," said Embiid, whose 76ers host the Heat at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center. "But I think our time is now. We have a special team and I feel like now we have a pretty good chance to go forward."
Speaking of the now: With their backs against the wall, the Heat are not flailing their arms wildly, looking for any target.
They are pointedly focused on the present: Game 5 and the 76ers.
"It's not necessarily us against the world," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's us against the Philadelphia 76ers. We have to find a way to finish games. They've really nailed us in the fourth quarters of all four games, except the one we were able to pull away. We just have to do better. Through three quarters, we've been up. It's going to require a full 48-minute game of our absolute best effort."
Miami has been outscored by Philadelphia by an astounding 42 points in just the fourth quarters through four games. Even in the Heat's 113-103 Game 2 win at Philadelphia, the 76ers still outscored Miami 28-27 in the fourth quarter.
In a roundabout way, that Game 2 loss -- which snapped Philadelphia's 17-game winning streak -- actually gave 76ers coach Brett Brown some much-needed locker room material heading into the game.
"Everybody's trying to break somebody's spirit," Brown said Monday. "It's always the same thing. It happens on the other side of it. And I know (Spoelstra), who is a great coach, would be in his locker room saying, 'All we got to do is win a game and come home.'
"They're going to live in a really isolated, sort of roomed-in world of, 'Let's just win a game. We won a game last time we were here, and just come home and figure it out.' You can see it."
Knowing his team can close out a hungry opponent on Tuesday, Brown isn't changing his message too much.
"My intention is not to speak anything into existence," Brown said. "It's all about trying help the team win. Like, we want to get better. We're gonna. We're going to go into Tuesday night and we're going to get better. I believe that if we think like that, act like that, coach like that, then the habit becomes, I hope, we're going to win."
J.J. Redick, no stranger to heated playoff series, echoed his coach's thoughts on Monday.
In Game 4, Redick led the 76ers with 24 points en route to a 106-102 win in a game that Philadelphia trailed by four after three quarters.
"You're feeling each other out and then later on in the series you have to deliver a crushing blow," Redick said. "You have to finish that. A team like Miami, their culture, their organization, their group of guys, they have fighters. They have warriors on their team. Every game in this series has been tough and there's no indication that Game 5 will be different. It's going to be a tough game."
Updated April 24, 2018