Joel Embiid

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first rodeo. 

The three-time NBA champ and former Finals MVP has played with and against the best players of the last 15 years. After his Heat team suffered a Game 5 and 4-1 series loss Tuesday night, the future Hall of Famer heaped praise upon the Sixers’ young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

“They’re the future of the NBA,” Wade said. “The NBA is in great hands with Ben and Joel and those kind of individuals.”

The young Sixers delivered at home, closing out their series in five games with a 104-91 win. Simmons (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Embiid (19 points, 12 boards) shined once again. 

As the Sixers look forward to an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with either Boston or Milwaukee, the question is simple: how far can these kids go?

“When you’ve got great individual players — no matter how old they are — they can do some special things,” Wade said. “These guys believe it. You can see it in their eyes. Embiid is not just talk. He’s not just a Twitter rat kind of person. He’s a player. He’s very good. 

“I believe in those guys. I believe they’re going to be special for awhile, but also, if they believe they can do it now, they can.”

Wade won two NBA titles with the greatest player on the planet, LeBron James. While the Sixers focus on now, there’s been a lot of talk from fans and media of King James' jumping ship and coming to Philly.

According to Wade, the Fresh Prince may be the only royalty the Sixers need.

“I don’t think he had a bad game,” Wade said of Simmons. “A young player like that, in his first playoffs — he didn’t have a bad game. You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special. If you know basketball, if you know talent, you know someone is special. 

“I think the thing that was impressive about him all year, is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much. The sky is the limit obviously for him and this organization. “

The Sixers have become a trendy pick to win the East and advance to the finals. Sure, they have youth, but Wade believes the organization has done an excellent job adding veteran players like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to complement Simmons and Embiid.

Wade experienced success at a young age and sees no reason this Sixers team can’t do the same.

“It’s definitely possible,” Wade said of the Sixers going on a deep playoff run. “Sometimes an organization, they get lucky and draft someone special. And these guys got to draft more than one person special and you were able to build around that. 

“That’s what these guys have the ability to do. I was lucky enough in my first year to go to the second round. And then the next year go to the Eastern Conference Finals and the next year win it all. It definitely can happen right away.”

Sixers' drastic transformation continues with series win over Heat

Sixers' drastic transformation continues with series win over Heat

BOX SCORE

For years, the notion of winning four out of five games was a reach for the Sixers. Getting four wins could take weeks at a time, not just over one week. 

That was then, this is now. And how different now is. 

The Sixers eliminated the Heat with a 104-91 win in Game 5 Tuesday to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2012 (see observations). They had not won a best-of-seven series in five games or less since 1985. 

The team that started the season with a goal of making the playoffs and transformed into aspirations of 50 wins, home-court advantage and the third seed has proved to be a true contender in the East (see highlights)

Quite a dramatic turnaround from finishing 10-72 only two seasons ago. 

“I'm just thankful to be here because it goes back to three or four years ago when it all started for me here,” Joel Embiid said. “Two years ago, we won 10 games, so to be in this position, I'm just excited.”

The Sixers won 75 games in Brett Brown’s first four seasons as head coach. Reaching .500 would have been a significant accomplishment. The Sixers blew past that mark with 52 wins, including 16 straight to end the regular season. 

The organization envisioned this level of success years ago when it began thinking of its current “Phila Unite” playoff campaign. The Sixers had the pieces; it was a matter of everything coming together. From Ben Simmons’ standout rookie year after injury to Embiid’s dominant sophomore season to the compilation of a roster deep with veterans, this relatively newly-constructed squad clicked … quickly. 

“I was hired in 2013 and I sat with Josh Harris and David Blitzer and a few of the other owners, and we talked about the vision, what we hoped to build,” Brown reflected. “Through rough times, through adversity, we didn’t blink. We stayed strong in what we were trying to do. 

“We’ve got more to do. We’ve got more to give. We’re excited for sure and there was a sense of just gratitude and I’m proud of all of us for just staying together — owners, team, direction that we’re heading — we didn’t blink. We didn’t pivot out of what we said we were going to do and I think slowly we’re reaping the benefit of that.”

Instead of looking ahead to the NBA draft lottery in May as the key to the Sixers’ future, they are eyeing a deep playoff run during that time. The Sixers will find out their second-round opponent possibly as soon as Thursday night. They will face the winner of the series between the Celtics (No. 2) and Bucks (No. 7), which Boston leads, 3-2. 

The Sixers have high expectations for success. For as many years as they were a losing team, many of the current players were not part of it. They know winning, an unwavering standard they’ve set for themselves they will carry throughout the playoffs. 

“On to the next series,” Simmons said. “We've got to focus on that. But for me, this is my first season playing so this is what I'm going to expect now. Going into it, we've got to lock in and focus on that next team we play." 

Sixers blitz Heat in 2nd half of Game 5 win to advance

Sixers blitz Heat in 2nd half of Game 5 win to advance

BOX SCORE

What a night at the Wells Fargo Center. 

The Sixers are moving on to the second round, eliminating the Heat with a 104-91 Game 5 victory on their home court Tuesday. 

They will face the winner of the series between the No. 2 Celtics and No. 7 Bucks. The Celtics lead, 3-2. Sixers fans chanted “We Want Boston” in the fourth quarter. 

• With Meek Mill and Kevin Hart sitting courtside (see story), the Sixers took over the game in the third quarter and fended off a late Heat run. The teams were tied, 46-46, at halftime before the Sixers outscored the Heat 34-20 over the next 12 minutes. The Heat wouldn’t go away, though. They went on a 10-0 run and cut the Sixers’ lead to eight with just under six minutes to play, plenty of time for more physical basketball. James Johnson was called for a technical with 5:24 to go on a rough play against Marco Belinelli.

• Joel Embiid’s first playoff home game went just about as you would have thought: a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double. Embiid had a strong 8-for-14 shooting performance after struggling to go a combined 7 for 22 in his first two games back. The Sixers will have time before the next round for Embiid to continue to get adjusted to wearing his mask. 

• The Heat did not go easy on Ben Simmons. Early in the game, a running Josh Richardson took out Simmons by the legs as they intersected while Simmons drove the basket. Simmons tumbled and instantly bounced back up. In the third quarter, Goran Dragic swiped Simmons in the head and was called for a technical. Simmons shook all of it off, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. 

• Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, Eagles running back Corey Clement, boxer Bernard Hopkins and former Sixer Nik Stauskas were among those in attendance. The game had the crowd on its feet, just watch the video below to see. 

• JJ Redick shot a perfect 10 for 10 from the line en route to a game-high 27 points. He was the only player to surpass 20 points. Kelly Olynyk led the Heat with 18 points off the bench. 

• The Sixers turned around that turnover problem from Game 4. They committed 15, compared to 27 on Saturday. Their three-point struggles continued (7 for 28), but they made up for them by outscoring the Heat, 46-40, in the paint. 

• Sixers fans fittingly wrapped up the game by chanting "Trust the Process."