PHILADELPHIA — Ben Simmons had 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in his playoff debut, and the Philadelphia 76ers romped again without Joel Embiid, beating the Miami Heat 130-103 on Saturday night for their 17th straight win.
Embiid was a spectator in Game 1 of the first-round series because of a broken orbital bone around his left eye. The All-Star center has been hopeful he can return early in the series. The Sixers could end this one early with Embiid back in the lineup.
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BOX SCORE: 76ERS 130, HEAT 103
Simmons dished and dazzled in the paint and the Heat had no answer for Sixers reserves Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. Belinelli and Ilyasova combined to hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter that helped shift the tone from physical and foul-filled to a long-distance game that allowed the Sixers to put away this one. They used a 15-0 run in the third in their first postseason game in five seasons under coach Brett Brown to get the rout rolling.
Brown won 47 games his first three seasons as the Sixers underwent the Process — and 52, plus Game 1 this season.
JJ Redick scored 28 points to lead the Sixers, who host Game 2 on Monday. Belinelli had 25 and Ilyasova 17.
Embiid ditched the black mask he's been wearing in light shooting drills for a white "Phantom of the Opera" mask to ring the ceremonial Liberty Bell before tipoff.
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The Sixers crowd roared as Embiid, the self-proclaimed "Phantom of the Process," waved his arms toward the crowd and exhorted them to get louder. Sixers fans started tailgating in the sports complex about seven hours before tipoff and one group posted a sign on their tent that read "Saturdays Are For The Process." The Sixers had a blue-out and gave away free T-shirts in preparation of their first playoff game since 2012.
"There is a gratitude that I have, we have. Finally, here we are and our fans genuinely have something to be proud of with us," Brown said.
The Game 1 victory sure didn't surprise Embiid.
He had already mapped out the 76ers' road to an NBA championship on his Instagram feed.
"It's about that time!!! #Playoffs #PhantomofTheProcess
Embiid posted a photo burst of teams in order of a potential road toward a Process title. He started with the Heat, followed by Boston, then a picture of him hugging Cleveland's LeBron James, and ending with Embiid looking at Golden State's Draymond Green.
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The Heat would swipe left on the collage.
For a half, the Heat got what they needed against one of the NBA's toughest teams and James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk helped them take a 60-56 lead at the break. Olynyk led the Heat with 26 points.
The Sixers, who set an NBA record with 16 straight wins to end the season, got the rout in full swing with a raucous crowd behind them. The Heat shot 26 percent in the third and were outscored 34-18.
Simmons assisted on Ilyasova's 3 and then hit a jumper for a 66-63 lead. Dario Saric, who the Sixers waited for two years to come over while he played overseas, also buried a 3 off an assist from Simmons. Simmons made a statue out of Olynyk, crossing him up and busting through for a two-handed slam that brought down the house.
All that was left was the "Trust the Process!" chants and they rang out inside the Wells Fargo Center once Saric buried a 3 in the fourth for a 109-87 lead.
Heat: G Goran Dragic was back in the starting lineup after missing the season finale with a sore knee. ... Embiid's bell ringing made him more of a factor in the game than Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside had just two points and he didn't seem pleased at one point with coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Philadelphia 76ers are going to win the Eastern Conference
LeBron James has owned the Eastern Conference for so long that fans have forgotten what another great team in his path could even look like. With his Cleveland Cavaliers floundering, the common take has been simple: the Eastern Conference is wide open. It seems that if James can’t have it, many believe that nobody deserves it. But that’s not the case. There is a true favorite in the East, an NBA Finals-caliber team that, for the first time in eight years, just happens not to include James.Ironically enough, that happens to be one of the teams James might play for next season.
76ers: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was at the game. ... Hall of Famer Allen Iverson received a roaring standing ovation and former Eagles star running back LeSean McCoy was at the game.
Game 2 is Monday in Philadelphia.
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Related slideshow: 2018 NBA playoffs (Provided by photo services)
To the basket
JaVale McGee, second from left, of the Golden State Warriors goes to the basket against Danny Green (14) and the San Antonio Spurs on April 14 in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 113-92.
Reaching for it
Bryn Forbes (11) of the San Antonio Spurs is unable to gain control of the basketball against Quinn Cook (4) of the Golden State Warriors on April 14 in Oakland, Calif.
Kevin Durant (35) of the Golden State Warriors drives against Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff series April 14 in Oakland, Calif.
To the floor
Rudy Gay (22) of the San Antonio Spurs and Kevon Looney of the Golden State Warriors fight for a loose ball on April 14 in Oakland, Calif.
Ending the drought
DeMar DeRozan (10) of the Toronto Raptors tries to get past Markieff Morris of the Washington Wizards in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoff series April 14 in Toronto. The Raptors won 114-106 to snap a 10-game losing streak in playoff openers.
Defending the hoop
Bradley Beal (3) of the Washington Wizards shoots against Serge Ibaka of the Raptors on April 14 in Totonto.
He ain't heavy ...
OG Anunoby, front, of the Toronto Raptors gets John Wall of the Washington Wizards in the air April 14 in Toronto.
In your face
Jonas Valanciunas (17) of the Toronto Raptors battles Marcin Gortat of the Washington Wizards on April 14 in Toronto.