With the Philadelphia 76ers dominating the Miami Heat 4-1 and advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the question now is if the Sixers are capable of qualifying to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2001.
Following a five-year period during which they were the worst team in the NBA, Philadelphia have become one of the best teams in the East and a serious contender to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors.
The Sixers started the season in high expectations and worked very hard to make it to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
The squad finished the regular season in the third place with a 52-30 record, setting a new franchise record 16-game winning streak.
In the playoff series against Miami, the Sixers dominated four of the five games and easily eliminated the Heat, playing very well on both ends of the floor.
With Dwayne Wade being unstoppable, Miami had the upper hand only in Game 2. In the other four encounters, the Sixers played excellent basketball and showed they have the talent and depth to go all the way.
The squad has seen many of their players deal with injuries, however they have exceeded the expectations and their roster’s depth ensures they can make the surprise and fight for the coveted title.
The duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is unstoppable, playing at very high standards and making the difference.
Simmons, one of the favourites for the Rookie of the Year Award, is the leader and the one that runs all the plays and can do everything on the floor, like scoring, rebounding and dishing assists.
Embiid, despite dealing with injuries and limited playing time during the season, is a great rim protector and can score in various ways, both from long range and inside the paint.
His size and athleticism have made him the reference point in the tactics. His return to action in Game 3 changed the momentum and helped the Sixers win three games in a row to end the series (4-1).
Alongside the two young stars, we can see Dario Saric, Robert Covington and JJ Reddick play very well, especially offensively, with veterans Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli coming off the bench to offer decent solutions.
Even Markelle Fultz, the number one pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, has made an impact in the season, with 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 9.4 assists, despite being sidelined for five months, due to an injury.
Now that the 19-year-old guard is healthy and has found his place in the roster, head coach Brett Brown has another weapon in his effort to lead his side to the top again.
Although they didn’t start the season as the favourites, they have been transformed into a high-quality contender, with some of the biggest media outlets worldwide, like the ESPN, praising them for their stellar performances.
The Sixers have also become one of the bookmakers’ favourite choices, with the best basketball betting tips suggesting Philadelphia can be considered an equal title contender, according to the odds.
With the team now waiting to see whether they will face the Boston Celtics or the Milwaukee Bucks in the semi-finals, they have the time to work on certain aspects of their game and play even better in their next playoff series.
Philadelphia clearly deserve a place among the top teams in the East and as Embiid said prior to Game 5 “their time is now”.