The Philadelphia 76ers are here. The Process has borne fruit and this team is suddenly very good ... on both ends of the floor.
Over the course of their 16-game, season-ending winning streak, the Sixers led the league defensively and ranked second on offense, with Ben Simmons continuing to drive that train even after Joel Embiid was lost to injury. And now, the team that won 10 games just two years ago could be the favorite to get to the conference finals from the 2-3-6-7 side of the Eastern Conference bracket.
The first team standing in their way is no pushover, though. The Miami Heat are a resilient group that seems to play every opponent -- the good teams and the bad -- close. The Heat have been waiting a year for this opportunity after pulling off a miraculous turnaround and missing the playoffs via a tiebreaker last season.
Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 3-6 series in the East, with links to let you dive in and explore more. Game 1 is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Philadelphia 76ers (52-30)
Pace: 102.2 (4)
OffRtg: 107.4 (11)
DefRtg: 102.0 (3)
NetRtg: +5.4 (4)
Sixers team notes:
- 41 percent of their minutes were played by rookies or second-year players, the sixth highest rate in the league and the highest rate among playoff teams.
- Allowed the fewest points in the paint per game (41.6). Allowed their opponents to take only 28 percent of their shots in the restricted area, the second lowest rate in the league, down from 33 percent (the sixth highest rate) last season. That was the league's biggest drop in the percentage of opponent shots that came in the restricted area.
- Best team in the first six minutes of the first quarter, outscoring their opponents by 21 points per 100 possessions.
- Ranked 13th in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (34 percent), but attempted only 4.1 pull-up 3-pointers per game, fewest in the league.
- Assisted on 73 percent of their field goals with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. That was the league's highest clutch assist percentage.
- Tied for the league lead in most losses after leading by 15 points or more (seven) and most losses after leading by 20 points or more (four).
- Regular starting lineup -- Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid -Ben - outscored its opponents by 21.4 points per 100 possessions, the second best mark among 46 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together.
Sixers individual notes:
- Robert Covington led the league with 3.9 deflections per game and 4.4 deflections per 36 minutes.
- Covington also led the league with 189 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.
- The Sixers outscored their opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions with Covington on the floor and were outscored by 4.1 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor. That differential (15.0) was the biggest on-off-court NetRtg differential among 266 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team this season.
- Joel Embiid ranked second in the league in usage rate, using 34 percent of the Sixers' possessions while he was on the floor.
- Embiid led the league with 9.0 points per game on post-ups.
- Markelle Fultz and T.J. McConnell were two of the three players to record a triple-double off the bench.
- McConnell led the league in total steals off the bench (89) and ranked third in total assists off the bench (290).
- Dario Saric shot 39 percent from 3-point range, up from 31 percent last season. That was the biggest jump in 3-point percentage among 100 players who attempted at least 200 threes each season.
- Ben Simmons was the first rookie in the 22 years for which we have shot location data to shoot 70 percent or better on at least 300 shots in the restricted area. He also led the league in non-restricted area paint shots.
Miami Heat (44-38)
Pace: 97.8 (26)
OffRtg: 104.5 (20)
DefRtg: 104.0 (7)
NetRtg: +0.5 (17)
Heat team notes:
- Played 53 games, most in the league, that were within five points in the last five minutes.
- Shot 39 percent from 3-point range with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. That was the league's best mark for clutch 3-point percentage.
- Were the third most improved team after the All-Star break, 6.0 points per 100 possessions better than they were before break, with the greater improvement coming on offense.
- Ranked second in the league in hand-off frequency (10.7 percent of total possessions).
- Attempted just 17.8 pull-up jumpers per game, second fewest in the league.
Heat individual notes:
- Bam Adebayo and James Johnson passed 58 percent of the time and 53 percent of the time, respectively, on post-ups. Those were two of the three highest rates among players with at least 100 post-up possessions, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- Wayne Ellington set an NBA record with 218 3-pointers off the bench. He was one of six players who played at least 1,000 total minutes and attempted at least 10 3-pointers per 36.
- Tyler Johnson took 46 percent of his shots from 3-point range, up from 30 percent last season. That was the fifth biggest increase among players with at least 400 field goal attempts in both seasons.
- The Heat were 8.9 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Kelly Olynyk on the floor (scoring 109.4) than they were with him off the floor (scoring 100.5).
- Josh Richardson's 75 blocks ranked second among players shorter than 6-7.
- Dwyane Wade had an effective field goal percentage of 36.8 percent from outside the paint, the second worst mark among 207 players who attempted at least 200 total shots from the outside.
- Hassan Whiteside ranked third in both defensive rebounding percentage and overall rebounding percentage among players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games.
Regular season matchup
Season series: Series tied 2-2 (Home team won all 4 games)
Feb. 2 @ Philadelphia - Sixers 103, Heat 97
Feb. 14 @ Philadelphia - Sixers 104, Heat 102
Feb. 27 @ Miami - Heat 102, Sixers 101
Mar. 8 @ Miami - Heat 108, Sixers 99
- Joel Embiid missed the second game, Ersan Ilyasova played in only the final meeting, and Markelle Fultz didn't play in any of the games.
- All four games were within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. Though he wasn't with the Heat for the first meeting, Dwyane Wade scored 17 of Miami's 26 points in the clutch against Philly, shooting 6-for-6 inside the arc and 0-for-3 from beyond it.
- The Sixers were a plus-22 in 89 minutes with Embiid on the floor and were outscored by 24 points in 103 minutes with Embiid off the floor.
- Embiid took more mid-range shots than shots in the restricted area, and was just 4-for-16 from mid-range. He scored a little less efficiently against Bam Adebayo than he did against Hassan Whiteside.
- J.J. Redick and Robert Covington shot a combined 13-for-54 (24 percent) from 3-point range over the four games.
- Wade's 27 points on Feb. 27 were the most a Heat player scored against the Sixers this season, but he was a minus-16 in that game.
- Justise Winslow was the primary defender on Ben Simmons, though the Heat defended better (allowing 52 points on 65 Philadelphia possessions) when James Johnson was matched up with Simmons.
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