The NBA playoffs are here and so are the Sixers.
The team that hasn't been to the postseason since 2012 stormed its way to a 130-103 victory in Game 1 against the Heat (see observations).
In this statement win, their 17th straight, the Sixers showed this could be just the beginning.
"I'm excited for our fans and our young team," Brett Brown said. "But there's a lot more coming."
The Sixers entered the series as one of the hottest teams in the NBA. At the same time, they are shorthanded without Joel Embiid (concussion, left orbital fracture) and had lost their previous two meetings with the Heat.
When they found themselves down by four at halftime, they regrouped to make key adjustments. They focused on cutting back on turnovers (10 in the first half, one in the second) and limiting the Heat's three-point shooting (50 percent in the third half).
The Sixers also started Ersan Ilyasova at center in the third quarter. Their roster depth allowed them to rearrange lineups and create matchup problems. Hassan Whiteside played the first four minutes of the third and did not check back in the rest of the game.
"We all had a gut feel of different things," Brown said. "Some of it was generated with the mismatch desire with Ersan and with Whiteside. Some of it was generated because we felt we'd like to pair Amir (Johnson) up with (Kelly) Olynyk, who had a big first half and look at that matchup. You made the decision and we were lucky that it helped us."
The Sixers were in cruise control after a 15-0 run in the third. They outscored the Heat 74-43 in the second half, their largest postseason second-half point total since tallying 81 in 1982 against the Lakers. Their 27-point victory is the sixth-largest margin in the team's playoff history.
"You've got to understand that we're doing this and [Joel Embiid] isn't back yet," Robert Covington said. "Just in the way we're playing, the pace at what we're doing, it just shows this team is very capable of a lot of things. That's what makes us very [scary]."
The Sixers stifled the Heat with a barrage of offensive weapons. Five players finished with 17 points or more. JJ Redick led all players with 28 points, in spite of momentarily losing vision in his left eye after an early-game fall, and Dario Saric added 20. Marco Belinelli and Ilyasova provided second unit symmetry with 25 points and a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double, respectively. Ben Simmons fell one rebound shy of a triple-double in his first postseason game (17 points, nine rebounds, 14 assists).
"In the second half we just let the floodgates go and you do have to credit them," Spoelstra said. "They shot the heck out of the ball. Redick and Belinelli were coming full speed off of screens and we did not handle that with any type of force or physicality. We were late to the game on those plays time and time again. That simply has to change on Monday."
Both teams are prepared for the other to make adjustments. While the tone of a playoff series can change from game to game, the Sixers' sent a clear message from the start.
"I feel this group has something special in it," Brown said.