MIAMI — The 76ers are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals for just the third time in 17 years. They have not reached the semifinals since 2012.
They have a three-games-to-one advantage in the quarterfinals over the Miami Heat. The Sixers could clinch the series Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center.
One would think that Brett Brown would use the infrequent conference semifinal appearances as motivation. If so, the coach has yet to do it publicly.
“We are just trying to do our job,” Brown said Saturday of Game 5. “It’s that boring or that simple. Write it however you want to do it. That’s how I see it.”
The fifth-year head coach’s comments came after the Sixers escaped with a 106-102 victory in Game 4. They won even though they committed 27 turnovers and shot just 22.6 percent (7-for-31) on three-pointers.
But they have won the last two series games — both on the road — in a series in which the road team has won three of four games. Brown is aware of that. So now is not the time to focus on facing the winner of the Boston Celtics-Milwaukee Bucks series, which is tied, 2-2, in the next round.
“We are going to bunker down,” Brown said of Tuesday’s game. “We want to get better. There are several areas that we can get better at and we will show those and talk about those freely.”
In addition to the team’s turnovers and poor three-point shooting, Joel Embiid had a subpar shooting performance in his second game back after missing 10 straight because of a fractured orbital bone near his left eye.
The all-star center made just 2 of 11 shots on an afternoon when he finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and eight turnovers. The Heat forced Embiid, who didn’t score a basket the last 39 minutes, 48 seconds of the game, into rushing shots while trying to deny him spot-up jumper opportunities. However, Embiid still got to the foul line, making 10 of 13 free throws. In his two games, Embiid has taken 28 free throws, making 20.
The Sixers want to duplicate the intensity they played with in Game 4.
But the Heat are also focused on correcting their mistakes. Perhaps they exerted too much energy while trying to rough up the Sixers. They appeared to tire during key stretches in the second half and they also made mental errors.
But Miami is prideful and in a desperate situation. So expect the Heat to maintain, if not step up, their physicality while trying to play better.
“We’ve got to go in and put our hard hats on,” Dwyane Wade said. “We can’t worry about [the Sixers.] They’re in a good position. We’re the ones trying to come from behind and bring it back to Miami.
“We’ll see what happens on Tuesday.”
Brown wants to approach Game 5 like it’s just another game. However, his players are aware of the magnitude of being up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series.
“We have to finish it,” Ben Simmons said. “We have to be locked in for that game coming up. We’ve got to … take care of what we have to take care of.”