Following four seasons of tanking, “The Process” finally yielded results for the Philadelphia 76ers, who will make their first postseason appearance since 2012 when they take on the sixth-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.
All games in this series will be broadcast on either ESPN, ESPN2 or TNT (full schedule). If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can still watch all of the games live on your computer, phone, video game console, or other streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
Hulu With Live TV: In addition to a Netflix-like on-demand streaming library, Hulu now also offers a bundle of live TV channels, which includes ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT. You can sign up right here, and you can then watch a live stream of the games on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Hulu app.
DirecTV Now: ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT are included in all four of DirecTV Now’s channel packages. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, and you can then watch the games live on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app.
Sling TV: ESPN, ESPN2 and TNT are included in the “Sling Orange” channel package. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial, and you can then watch the games live on your computer via the Sling TV website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app.
WatchESPN: You can also watch games that are broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2 on your computer via ESPN.com, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the WatchESPN app. Watching on these platforms require you to sign in to a TV provider, but you can use your Hulu, DirecTV Now or Sling TV credentials to do exactly that.
The 76ers are easily one of the most compelling teams in the playoffs. Even when they were enjoying success at the start of the year, many believed they were still a year or two away from really contending, but they just kept getting better, and now that they enter the postseason on a 16-game winning streak, they are a legitimate Finals contender with no one really separating themselves in the East.
No matter how you feel about Ben Simmons’ Rookie of the Year candidacy, there’s no denying how good he’s been, as he’s just the ninth first-year player since 1980 to record more than 9.0 win shares in a season (9.2). Superstar center Joel Embiid appears to be on the wrong side of questionable for Game 1, but he’s expected back at some point in the series. Dario Saric, Robert Covington and JJ Redick are some of the best role players in the league. And Markelle Fultz, who is plus-63 in 10 games since returning from his shoulder injury, gives them a nice offensive spark off the bench.
Since the All-Star break, Philly is second in the NBA in net rating, out-scoring opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions. Utah and Houston are the only teams that can realistically claim they’ve been better than the Sixers over the past two months.
All that said, Miami presents an extremely interesting matchup. Hassan Whiteside is one of the few players capable of matching Embiid’s size and athleticism, Josh Richardson is an elite defender who may stick to Simmons, and Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA.
While the Sixers have lost just five games since the All-Star break, two of those have come at the hands of the Heat–and Embiid was healthy for both of them. Overall, these teams split their four matchups this season, each winning both at home. All of the matchups were decided by single digits, the total in each game was between 200 and 207 points, and Miami out-scored Philly 409-407 overall.
It doesn’t get much closer than that, and even with Philly’s recent red-hot play, it wouldn’t be surprising if this series went the full seven games.