The 76ers are a close-knit group of individuals who are far from pushovers. They have proved that during their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the Miami Heat.
“Everybody said playoff experience, if you ain’t been there, you don’t know how to react,” Robert Covington said Tuesday before Game 5 at the Wells Fargo Center. “But with this team, we reacted in a right way and we had everybody’s back.
‘That’s what the unity of this team and that’s what Philly Unite is.”
The Sixers didn’t match the Heat’s physicality in Game 2, and it led to a loss. So they put on their big-boy pants, went toe-to-toe and elbow-to-elbow with the Heat, and won the next two games.
Things got testy in Game 3. The Heat kept trying to rough up the Sixers, who didn’t back down.
The biggest altercation came in the second quarter when Miami’s Dwyane Wade and the Sixers’ Justin Anderson got tangled up. Wade, one of the NBA’s all-time greats, yanked one of Anderson’s arms and slung the Sixers reserve swingman to the floor on the baseline. Wade then stood in front of Anderson, yapping at the Sixer. Anderson quickly got up and the two had to be separated.
Dwyane Wade throws Justin Anderson to the ground! pic.twitter.com/bvp6sbwFqG
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 20, 2018
The two received physical-taunting technical fouls. Then Ben Simmons and Heat power forward James Johnson were called for double technicals, and later Marco Belinelli and Heat point guard Goran Dragic received double technicals.
In Game 4, the intensity went to another level after Simmons fouled Dragic at midcourt in the first half. Dragic didn’t stop driving toward the basket and Covington made him pay. He shoved Miami’s point guard under the basket, knocking him to the floor.
Taking exception, Johnson grabbed Covington. Simmons, in turn, went after Johnson. During the scuffle, Justise Winslow was bleeding from a cut above his left eye after colliding with Joel Embiid. The cut required four stitches.
“We stuck with each other, had each other’s back and held each other’s back,” Covington said. “That just shows that this team is more than a young team. … We are a team that’s going to stay together.”
Kings of the glass
The Sixers’ average of 14.3 offensive rebounds per game through four postseason games was tops in the playoffs. They grabbed 17 offensive boards three times, in Games 1, 2 and 4.
In all, the Sixers’ total of 197 rebounds led all playoff teams. The 57 total rebounds in Saturday’s Game 4 were the most the franchise had recorded in the postseason since totaling 57 in a 104-90 victory over the Orlando Magic on May 9, 1999.
The Sixers gave away blue “Phila Unite” flags to fans before the game. “Phila Unite” is the team’s slogan for the postseason.
The Heat’s Josh Richardson was in the starting lineup for Game 5 despite being listed as questionable just an hour before tipoff.
Richardson sprained a shoulder in Game 4 in Miami on Saturday and did not practice with the team on Monday. He said he was still feeling some discomfort after the Heat’s shootaround on Tuesday morning. After a pregame warm-up, it was announced that Richardson would play.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said Richardson is a significant part of the team and that the Heat play better when the opponent feels his presence on the court.