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    Sit back and enjoy 'The Process'

    Apr 15, 2018

    CHICAGO - If Donovan Mitchell were anywhere near a TV set Saturday night, he probably saw what the rest of the world saw - the most jarring evidence why Ben Simmons is this season's NBA Rookie of the Year.

    I get it, when the panel of 131 NBA writers select the ROY, postseason play won't factor in their vote. But what Simmons did in his playoffs debut was a reflection of his outstanding body of work during a successful regular season in which he nearly averaged a triple-double and helped Philly notch 52 wins.

    Simmons belongs in the "life isn't fair" file, a 6-foot-10, 210-pound point guard who has the dream qualities of a perfect court general - speed, quickness, shooting range and the peripheral vision of a fish. 

    Simmons, 21 years good and the No.1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, finished with 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in his team's 130-103 dusting of the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

    The Heat were no pushovers. They've been here before, won it all thrice, and impervious to hostile grounds. They went on a 23-4 tear to take a 35-23 first quarter lead, silencing the raucous crowd of 20,617 fans who showed up at the Wells Fargo Center.

    But when the Sixers gunners came to life, Miami's chances died. 

    J.J. Redick dialed long distance eight times to finish with 28 points. Dario Saric had 20 while Marco Belinelli added 25 off the bench as the Sixers sank 45 of 95 field goals, including 18 of 28 behind the 3-point arc, a stunning 64.3 percent clip. 

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    Without Joel Embiid, the other half of Philly's twin towers, Miami giant Hasan Whiteside had an opportunity to dominate and prove his $98 million contract. Instead, Whiteside failed spectacularly, logged just two points and played only 12 minutes as he was chased off the court by Philly's small ball line-up.

    Veteran Ersan Ilyasova, who got the nod to start at center instead of Amir Johnson,  impersonated Embiid to a tee, churning in 17 points and 14 rebounds.

    Kelly Olynyk (27 points and seven rebounds) and Goran Dragic (15 points and four assists ) kept Miami afloat with a 60-56 halftime lead. But Dwyane Wade, whose leadership and playoffs experience was supposed to be a series wild card, was a non-factor. 

    In the sunset of what had been a fabulous 15-year NBA career, Wade looked old at 36. He neither had the legs nor the energy to chase after Philly's rumbunctious shooters.

    "In the second half, we let the floodgates go," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the Miami Herald.

    They sure did. The Sixers outscored Miami 34-18 in the third quarter before delivering a 40-25 fourth quarter coup de grace.

    "I feel this group has something special in it," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said in his delicious Boston drawl.

    Brown can now add historic to his team's nomenclature.

    Philly's 130 points was the most since April 27, 1986. And the 14 assists that Simmons served was the most by a rookie since Magic Johnson dropped 16 in 1980.

    Looks like Philadelphia is ripe for a deep playoffs run, undaunted by the bright lights. Hope you're doing what I'm doing - enjoying The Process.

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      LOB IS IN THE AIR. Of the four games played Saturday, three home teams defended their turf including Toronto, which topped Washington, 114-106, and Golden State, which decimated the Spurs, 113-92.

      Down 88-75 with 5:08 left to play, the Portland Trail Blazers appeared on their way to defend the Moda Center when they chopped the deficit to 93-92 and had ball possession with 15.3 to go.

      But Damian Lillard,couldn't deliver, air balling a floater down the lane and the New Orleans Pelicans escaped with a 97-95 victory.

      Notching his first-ever playoffs win, Anthony Davis raised a lot of eyebrows with 35 points and 14 rebounds. But Rajon Rondo was just as impressive.

      A blue blood from the University of Kentucky and a 32-year old relic from Boston's 2008 championship team, Rondo had 17 assists, many of which were majestic lobs that Davis caught like a dutiful St. Bernard snatching a frisbee.

      Lillard and McCollum, the Blazers All-Star tandem who combined for 48.3 points per game during the regular season, picked a bad time to take a day off. They missed 25 of 38 shots and had only 37 points between them.

      If they stay cold in Game 2, this series could be over real quick.

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