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23 April 2019, 12:27 | Updated: 23 April 2019, 15:26
A hard-fought first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets is enabling Philadelphia to forge team chemistry and resiliency, says 76ers Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons.
Weeks, a difference they have been known to make. Call that a cliche and slap it on the 76ers. It wasn't all that long ago that outside sentiment surrounding the squad erred towards uncertainty.
After a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, there appeared to be more questions than immediate answers surrounding the Sixers.
Chemistry, health, personnel match-ups - just how much of a fight were the Sixers going to be in for against their Atlantic Division rivals?
Three games later, there's little doubt about two things - the best-of-seven game series has indeed been a fight, but the Sixers have shown that amid a variety of circumstances, they can adapt and succeed.
Game 2, there was the half-time speech that lit the spark for a historic third quarter. End result? A win.
Game 3, the backup bigs and a host of others rose to the occasion. Win.
Game 4, with emotions simmering, the Sixers stood tall, and their All-Star centrepiece led a determined finish. Another win.
Now, with the chance looming to put Brooklyn away for good, the Sixers - while certainly not a finished product - look like a club that is coming together while rallying in the face of adversity.
According to basketballreference.com, the Sixers only held the lead in Game 4 for four minutes. The contest was tied for another three and a half minutes. The rest of the time, Brooklyn was in front.
Still, the Sixers prevailed. Behind Joel Embiid, who was listed as doubtful heading into the game yet managed to log heavy minutes down the stretch, the team clamped down and generated enough stops for the offense to make inroads.
Mike Scott then put the Sixers over the top, earning a 3-1 lead to take back to Philly.
"Listen, at the point we're at right now, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of the chemistry, was a slow start from the beginning, but we had different line-ups that got out there and kept the game in reach," said starting forward Tobias Harris.
"Third and fourth quarter and the bottom of the fourth quarter were when we really were able to come together and figure out where we wanted to go to get efficient buckets and to play."
"We knew we had to step up a little bit more and take over," said point guard Ben Simmons. "I think everybody just did their job… everybody came together and did something to contribute."
The Sixers closed Game 4 by scoring eight of the game's final 10 points in the last five minutes of regulation.
Persevering in such a pressure-packed situation only figures to bring a relatively inexperienced group closer together.
Of course, skilled individuals and collective talent are necessary to win at this stage of the year. But for as much discussion as there was at the outset of the first round over chemistry, it's worth revisiting the importance of intangibles, and that, for the Sixers, they seem to be moving in the right direction.
One game away for advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the club has a different swagger than they did a few days ago.
That's a nice development in not a lot of time.
"I think chemistry's just flowed, kind of," said Simmons. "The way everyone's playing has kind of gotten into a nice flow, and understanding how we play with each other and playing hard."
"We've got to go back home and close this thing out," Harris said. "I thought you saw a resilient team in both games - Game 3 without Joel, and then with Joel in our line-up.
"Being able to fight through it and get stops at the end of the fourth quarter was a resilient team. That's who we have to be."
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