USA Today Images

Ring That Bleeping Bell!

A legendary night.

April 25, 2018 - 11:55 am

Let’s get this out of the way right now – last night was epic for Philadelphia. A legendary night. A night that people have dreamed of for so long for so many reasons there. Let’s start with the fact that Meek Mill was in the house and ringing the bell pregame.

You have that moment to start the game and there’s no way Philly was losing. The series was over right then and there. But you know Miami wasn’t going to roll over. And go quietly. They don’t do quiet. They do tough. They do physical. And they grind. And they did all of that last night. Slowing everything down and mucking it all up. A 46-46 score at halftime. That’s Heat basketball. They’re looking to ugly it up any way they can. And they did.

But then came halftime and the halftime adjustments that Philly has made time and time again over the course of the season and in this series. And the Sixers locked the HEAT UP, holding them to 20 in the third and opening up a 14-point lead as the crowd chanted “TRUST THE PROCESS!” 

And they rolled on to 104-91 win and a series win. JJ Redick: 27. Joel Embiid: 19 and 12. Ben Simmons: 14 and 10 and a trip to the second round. And that set off a party in the stands and on the court, where Embiid picked up Kevin Hart like a child on Christmas Day.

But hold up for a second. Let’s rewind. Go back a minute before Jo and Kev were partying. 

Just two years ago, they were in danger of tying the record for worst season in NBA history. Not twenty years ago. Not twelve years ago. Two years ago. In April 2016, they won their 10th game of the season. They won 10 games that year. They lost 72. This year, they won 52 and their first playoff series.

Gotta love it when a plan comes together. But a lot of times, a plan doesn’t come together. It falls apart before we get to this part. You know…. The part where your star player is celebrating with an A-List comedian. 

We talk about The Process and trusting the process. But the process isn’t magic. And The Process isn’t guaranteed to work. How many coaches and players say TRUST THE PROCESS.  Pretty much every last one of them. And there are plenty of teams that are bad for a really long time and never get better. They’re brutal and they probably always will be. Not this crew. But this wasn’t guaranteed. Henry Sims started 55 games for Philly. He plays in Italy now. Hollis Thompson started 82 games for Philly. He’s in Greece now. James Nunnally – Turkey. Casper Ware – Australia. These guys all played for Philadelphia in the last five years and none of them are even in the United States anymore. I’m surprised some of them are still even in the sport. And I could keep going.  

The Process is draft picks, sure, but it’s also coaches and players working their asses off. It’s Brett Brown looking at Ben Simmons and seeing a point guard when nobody else did. Its players and coaches learning how to win on the fly. Something they did during the regular season and then in this series.  

This wasn’t even the same team that shot the lights out and blew the doors of Miami in Game 1. This team went 7 for 25 from three and still won by double digits. This wasn’t necessarily pretty. In fact, it was pretty ugly It was chippy. It was harsh. And at times hard to watch. And it was damn impressive.

You beat an Erik Spoelstra team in five games when your two biggest stars have never won a playoff game and one of them didn’t even play until Game 3, and you’ve earned the right to advance. And you’ve earned the right to hear Dwyane Wade compare Ben Simmons to “that guy in Cleveland” 

Praise doesn’t get much higher than that. And speaking of Wade, Philly is a D Wade DeLorean away from sweeping this series. From 10 wins two years ago to the second round of the playoffs is absurd. And they’re not done. But just because the work isn’t done, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t celebrate now, because when you’ve been through what they’ve been through, you damn well earned the right to celebrate. And Brett Brown earned that as much as anyone.  

After his postgame speech, Brown called JJ Redick over to ring their celebratory bell. But that wasn’t JJ’s plan

That’s not a champagne shower. That’s a chocolate milk shower and it is awesome. I don’t want this ride to end and it’s not. Philly is advancing. Ring that bell! Ring that bleeping bell!