The 76ers realize the postseason intensity is about to be turned up a notch.
The rough Eastern Conference quarterfinal round against the sixth-seeded Miami Heat will resemble a Sunday school session compared with what the Sixers may experience in the semifinals.
On Thursday night, the Milwaukee Bucks evened their playoff series at three games a piece by beating the Boston Celtics, 97-86, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The seventh and decisive game will be played at the Boston Garden at 8 p.m. on Saturday. As a result, the Sixers will open their semifinals series against either the Celtics or Bucks on Monday night. The game would be played in Boston if the second-seeded Celtics win due to their having the higher seed. However, the third-seeded Sixers would open the series at the Wells Fargo Center with a Bucks’ victory.
Joel Embiid doesn’t have preference in regards to a semifinals opponent.
“We will be ready for whoever wins,” the center said following Thursday’s practice. “We played them (both) in the regular season and have a lot of scouting reports and the coaches will do a good job of preparing us.”
Part of that preparation involves educating the young players on the increased intensity.
Sixers coach Brett Brown knows all about that. He was apart of four NBA titles as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.
“In every series, the deeper you go, I’m going to paint something more physical,” Brown said, “something more dramatic, something more fundamental, something that you have to game plan and be on point with a scouting report.”
Everything gets more amped up in the conference semifinals. Sometimes the pace of the game slows down even more the further a team advances. Teams often reduce their rotations from 10 players to nine or from nine to eight.
The Sixers don’t intend on slow things down or tighten up their rotations in the conference semifinals.
Their ability to play fast and use their depth gives them an advantage. The Sixers have one of the league’s deepest benches with the addition of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. They have won 20 of their last 21 games with a deep man rotation and an up-tempo style of play.
“There’s a real challenge at times when you start shrinking a rotation, you gut the spirit of a team,” Brown said. “Sometimes that happens in [NBA] Finals and if you are lucky enough to play in an Eastern Conference finals, sometimes that does happen.”
It also happens in Game 6 and Game 7 of series.
But Browns like the spirit of his team. He also likes the energy that reserves T.J. McConnell and Justin Anderson bring to the team. They’re the two players whose minutes would likely lose playing during a reduced rotation.
“We sort of want to be us better,” Brown said.