In regards to postseason play, the 76ers are one of the least-experienced teams in the playoffs.
One would think that’s a huge disadvantage heading into their opening-round best-of-seven series with the Miami Heat.
Not JJ Redick.
The shooting guard, in his 12th season and just as many playoffs, and other veterans with postseason experience have chatted some with the team about the difference between regular-season and postseason basketball. The Sixers even had a team dinner Thursday night as a way to bond in advance of Game 1 on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
“But you don’t really know until you experience it,” Redick said Friday after practice. “I actually think, in a way, not having been in it is an advantage. You really just don’t know any better.”
He used rookie point guard Ben Simmons as an example. Having not played in the postseason, Simmons is approaching the game the same way he’s approached regular-season contests.
“His demeanor, I think, would be a calming presence for our team,” Redick said.
Redick (88 games), Amir Johnson (42), Marco Belinelli (48), Ersan Ilyasova (23), Justin Anderson (5) and Jerryd Bayless (29) are the only Sixers with playoff-game experience. That could be a bit misleading in that Bayless is completely out of the rotation, while Anderson doesn’t routinely play.
Simmons is approaching his postseason debut similar to the way he approached his regular-season debut.
“People are going to say it’s another level out there, it’s a step up, more physical, another level,” he said. “But me going into the game, I’m going to play the way I play. Find my guys, get them open shots and do what I can.”
His ability to just play his game is part of the reason why the Sixers aren’t concerned about a lack of playoff experience. Nor are they worried that all-star center Joel Embiid will miss his ninth consecutive game since fracturing the orbital bone near his left eye and suffering a concussion March 28 against the New York Knicks.
Easing the Sixers’ minds was the NBA-record 16 straight wins to conclude the season. They are also 23-1 at the Wells Fargo Center since Christmas. So it’s not the time to panic over inexperience or try to tinker with the rotation.
“We are doing OK,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “To try to overthink it, especially in Game 1, is not going to happen.
“We are going to take this slow and be mindful about what got us here, who we are, and just try to do it, and do it like I say ‘harder, better, longer.’ ”
The Sixers will have Redick back in the lineup after lower-back tightness sidelined him for Wednesday’s regular-season finale against the Milwaukee Bucks. For the Heat, however, Goran Dragic (knee) returns for the Heat after missing Wednesday night’s win against the Toronto Raptors for precautionary reasons.
Dragic averaged 17.3 points and 4.8 assists in the regular season and led the team in scoring 28 times and assists 35 times, both team highs.
The Sixers and Heat had a competitive four-game series in the regular season. The games were decided by an average of 4.5 points. The Sixers won their two home games and lost the two contests in Miami.
So this series is expected to be thrilling, regardless of the Sixers’ experience level.
Brown wouldn’t co-sign on Redick’s spin that the lack of experience is an advantage. But he understands what his team leader was getting at.
“I suppose there is an element of naivete,” the coach said. “You don’t know what you don’t know. Let’s just go play loose and free and that could be true.
“But, in general, the experience of this environment this time of the year is a priceless thing that you just can’t make up or buy.”
And the Sixers are just going to have to do their best without it.