If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
That’s the philosophy coach Brett Brown is trying to follow as he prepares for the 76ers’ first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat.
The Sixers are riding the wave of a 16-game win streak into Saturday night’s playoff game at the Wells Fargo Center. They closed out the 82-game regular-season schedule with the third-best defense in the NBA, and everything seems to be clicking. So, instead of trying to reinvent how the Sixers play, Brown said he intends to keep things simple.
“I don’t want to overthink this, I don’t want my players to overthink it,” Brown said Thursday. “What they’ve doing has been successful. We’re not going to make this hard.”
There are plenty of things that could derail that simplistic approach: worrying about the return of Joel Embiid, increased media attention, friends and family coming out of the woodwork looking for playoff tickets, a lively city such as Miami and all of its temptations. Those are the things the Sixers are hoping to avoid.
“Anything that equals distractions, anything that equals a sped-up mind, I have learned doesn’t help anybody — let alone young players,” Brown said.
Keeping the distractions to a minimum is a high priority, because the Sixers will face a team that is all too familiar with the postseason and everything that comes with it. Enter Brown’s “appropriate fear” of opponents.
The Heat have been in the playoffs 11 of the last 15 seasons, making it to the Finals five times and winning three championships. Under the guidance of team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat have become one of the most-respected organizations in the league.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Riley and the legacy that he is building with Spo,” Brown said. “We’re terrified in a respectful and competitive way.”
Still, Brown is calm.
The Sixers’ young core might be getting its first taste of postseason basketball, but it is nothing new for Brown. For years as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, he watched coach Gregg Popovich orchestrate a consistently successful team.
Brown understands the flow of the playoffs and the preparation needed for a seven-game series. There will be film sessions and advanced scouting, adjustments and curveballs, but he doesn’t want the team to become anxious.
The Sixers need to stay eager, ready, calm, and still enjoy their accomplishments along the way. Leading by example, Brown intends to keep things as simple as possible by finding the perfect balance between staying competitive and staying relaxed.