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The theme surrounding the 2019-20 version of the Philadelphia 76ers was “wait for the playoffs”. The team truly believed that they had a built a team that was ready for the postseason with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Al Horford leading the way.
Unfortunately, Simmons was injured and had to miss the postseason while the Embiid and Horford pairing just did not work. It all resulted in the Sixers starting young Shake Milton in place of Simmons and they were swept out of Round 1 by the rival Boston Celtics.
Fast forward a year later and the Sixers are now the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and they are ready to move on from the 2020 playoffs and go on what they hope will be a long playoff run.
“I think everybody is motivated right now from the top all the way down to the bottom,” said Milton. “We definitely have a bad taste from last year being swept and everything, but just from looking at guys and seeing the way we’re approaching practices and how locked in everybody is, we know what we’re striving for, and we know what our goal is and that’s a championship. I think everybody will be locked in for that, so we’re ready.”
The Sixers have not played since May 16 when they ended the regular season while their Round1 opponent, the Washington Wizards, have had to play two games as part of the play-in tournament just to make the playoffs. All of the sitting around can make a team anxious and want to just get out there and play.
“Just be us,” said coach Doc Rivers. “We can’t be anybody different. Never can be. Be the best version of us. I think they’re prepared, they’re ready. They’re eager. So that would be the message.”
When it comes to the Wizards, specifically, Milton averaged 18.7 points against Washington in the three games in the regular season. As they head into this series, things will most likely be different due to the nature of the playoffs, but it does offer Milton a bit of realization that he can have some success on offense.
“I think it’s out the window,” he explained. “I know that when the playoffs come around, it’s a different level of play. My job is just to be prepared as possible. I got in rhythm in those games. Hopefully, I can do the same.”
The series will finally begin on Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT from the Wells Fargo Center.
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