Joel Embiid hoisted diminutive comedian Kevin Hart not unlike the way a parent would toss up a toddler. Embiid then pulled him in for a hug as confetti rained on the court Orlando Pace Jersey
, team flags waved around them and the promise of a rowdy late-night celebration was on deck.
Hart grabbed the mic and yelled, ”Let’s give it up for Joel Embiid!”
Believe it, Philly.
The 76ers are rolling in the postseason – and rappers, politicians, actors and athletes are dancing along in the ride.
Embiid and Ben Simmons shined again in front of rapper Meek Mill, and the dominant duo ushered the nightmares-into-dreams Process of the Philadelphia 76ers into the second round with a 104-91 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night.
The 76ers, winners of 10 games just two seasons ago, are in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2012.
”I kind of promised the city this,” Embiid said.
The Sixers won the series 4-1 and turned the Wells Fargo Center into the wildest house party in the city. Embiid had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Simmons had 14 points and 10 boards, and the entire team was energized by Mill’s surprise appearance. Mill made a dramatic return hours after Pennsylvania’s highest court ordered him freed while he appeals decade-old gun and drug convictions.
He was taken from prison by helicopter to Philadelphia, where he rang the ceremonial bell at the start of Game 5.
”Welcome home Meek Mill Tyron Smith Jersey ,” was about all that was heard from the public address announcer as wild cheers drowned out the rest. Mill sat courtside next to Hart and Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin.
Before the game, Mill visited privately with the Sixers in their locker room.
”For him to come to this type of game … I was just happy,” Embiid said.
Hart talked trash, wandered onto the edge of the court to rile up fans and palled around with Mill as the young and gettin’ it Sixers proved they just might be the team to beat in the East.
They’ll have plenty of time to rest and recover – Embiid again played in a black mask to guard a face injury – with the other Eastern Conference playoff series expected to stretch into the weekend.
They await the winner of Milwaukee-Boston. The Celtics lead the series 3-2.
The 76ers were buzzing once Mill’s release made headline news in the city. Rubin had organized prison trips with Embiid, Simmons and Markelle Fultz, and the rapper’s songs played in the locker room and during warmups.
Simmons called Mill’s presence ”amazing.”
”Just having someone that looks out for us, all of us here, it would just mean a lot for him to be back in Philly, in the city of Philadelphia with the fans, especially with a game like that tonight,” Simmons said.
Mill breezed into the locker room about 45 minutes before tip and hugged some of the Sixers. Mill was met with a crush of media and celebrity fans as he tried to take his courtside seat. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and retired boxing great Bernard Hopkins sat near Hart and Mill, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf joined them in the second half. The national champion Villanova Wildcats posed for pictures with Mill in the locker room.
What they saw was just the latest beatdown from a franchise whose maligned rebuild has morphed into the one of the trendiest terms in sports.
The Sixers outscored the Heat by 14 in the third quarter to snap a tie game and had fans belting ”Trust the Process!”
Goran Dragic was whistled for a technical after slapping Simmons on the backside of his head John Franklin-Myers Jersey , and that got the crowd howling early in the third. Simmons kept his cool – the rookie is rarely rattled – and made the Heat pay. JJ Redick sank the free throw off the technical, and Simmons kicked the ball out to Robert Covington on the possession for a 3 and a 54-48 lead. Redick followed with his third 3, and Philly was litty again.
Redick, who scored 27, sank the dagger late in the fourth that got the party started. Coach Brett Brown was showered with water and sports drinks in the locker room.
”We’ve got more to do. We’ve got more to give,” Brown said.
Heat: Josh Richardson played with a sprained left shoulder. He picked up three fouls in his first 2 minutes. … James Johnson was hit with personal and technical fouls late in the fourth that ended a 10-0 Miami run. … Justise Winslow led the Heat with 18 points.
76ers: Redick was whistled for a technical foul in the first half. … Missed 10 of 12 3s in the first half.
Dwyane Wade is considering retirement. He congratulated Embiid after the game (”the NBA is in great hands with Joel”) and said he ”couldn’t have asked for a better ending” this season than to return to the Heat. Wade did not announce a decision on his future.
”You’re going to make me emotional if we start to think about that or talk about that right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Maybe it’s too late for Jesse James and the Steelers or Zach Miller and the Bears.
No matter, the NFL has a simplified catch rule designed to eliminate confusion – and, the league hopes, controversy – about receptions.
Team owners unanimously approved the new language Tuesday, with basically three elements defining a catch:
-having control of the ball;
-getting two feet down or another body part;
-making a football move, such as taking a third step or extending the ball.
”We wanted to simplify and provide clarity Devontae Booker Jersey ,” Pittsburgh coach and longtime competition committee member Mike Tomlin said. ”It was time to do so after we got caught up in language that didn’t do that. The language was obscure and confusing.”
The committee cited overturned receptions by tight ends James and Miller last season among the dozens of plays they reviewed ”dozens of times,” according to committee chairman Rick McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons.
The James call was particularly impactful because the Steelers wound up losing to New England in a December game that determined home-field advantage for the playoffs. The Patriots got it and wound up in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh lost its first postseason game to Jacksonville.
Just as infamous were negated catches by Dez Bryant of the Cowboys in a 2015 playoff game at Green Bay, and Calvin Johnson of the Lions in 2010 against the Bears.
”I think the third step recommendation was excellent,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ”It cleans up a majority of the (catches) that were in question. The old rule was so technical. We’re better off today than in the past.”
Added Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars‘ top executive:
“First of all, simplicity is the key. I think this is a fan-driven concept here because a lot of people have no idea why was this thing called that way and why was the next one not called that way. … I think we’ve cleaned up a lot of that, and that will get the fans more engrossed in the game. It’s going to be much easier for them to understand what is and what isn’t.”
Late Tuesday, the owners rewrote the rule on using the helmet, making it a 15-yard penalty for any player to lower his head to initiate any hit with the helmet.
McKay called it ”a significant change,” noting that it was a ”technique too dangerous for the player doing it and the player being hit.”
McKay said the tackle made by the Steelers’ Ryan Shazier last season that resulted in the linebacker suffering a spinal injury – Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery two days later – was not the impetus for the change. But it was an example of what needs to be eliminated from the game.
”This one technique, we saw so many hits when a player lowered his head and delivered a hit and either hurt himself or the player he was hitting John Elway Jersey ,” McKay said. ”It was time for a change of this magnitude.”
While the offender could be disqualified, owners did not call for an automatic ejection on such a play – at least not yet. In college football, when a player is penalized for targeting and a replay review affirms it, he is ejected.
Also approved Tuesday was making permanent spotting the ball at the 25-yard line after a touchback on a kickoff; allowing players on injured reserve to be traded; and authorizing a designated member of the officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to eject a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field.
Withdrawn by the Jets was a proposal to limit defensive pass interference to 15 yards, the penalty in college, except for egregious incidents. The competition committee was not in favor of such a change, but McKay and football operations chief Troy Vincent said the idea has ”some momentum.” It is likely to come up again in future meetings.
Tabled was a proposal to allow an assistant coach whose team is still playing in the postseason to sign a contract to become head coach elsewhere. That’s been dubbed the ”Josh McDaniels Rule” after the Patriots offensive coordinator agreed to become the Colts coach in January, then reneged and returned to New England soon after the Super Bowl.
That suggestion also is expected to come up at future meetings, beginning in May at the Atlanta owners get-together.
Also tabled was whether to allow video on sideline Surface tablets that teams use now to view photos. McKay said the voters weren’t there to pass it.
On-field officials supported having a member of the staff in New York calling for an ejection in certain blatant circumstances that involve non-football acts such as fighting. They cited the difficulty of determining the culprits in a fight or other such situations.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi and Sports Writer Mark Long contributed.
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