What next for The Process? Why Philadelphia Is Ready to Dominate the Eastern Conference

The Process is finally delivering results. Having reached the post-season for the first time since 2012, the Philadelphia 76ers have now won a first-round series for only the second time in 15 years after beating the Miami Heat 4-1.

The future looks even more promising than it did a month ago and while these are uncharted waters for the current Sixers team, here's why they can go far in the post-season.

Sky-high confidence

For the last five years, fans in Philadelphia have been told to trust The Process. The Sixers, so the message went, would again be a force once the talent they began accumulating in the 2013 NBA Draft began to flourish.

Five years on and those words sound more prophetic than anyone could have imagined. In Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers have two of the most dominant young players in the league, a frightening thought for their opponents, given the duo are 24 and 21 years old respectively.

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Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers talks with entertainer Meek Mill after the game against the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2018 in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 104-91. Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

"We have a chance," Embiid said after Game Five, as reported by ESPN. "We have a good chance. I just see an opportunity because I think we have a special team. We feel like we're unstoppable and we can get whatever we want to. That's the goal and we're going to do what it takes to get there."

The team of the future can be the team of the present.

Lots of room for improvement

Philadelphia landed a franchise record 18 three-pointers, shooting 64% from beyond the arc in Game One, but production dried up in Game Two, when they converted just seven of their 36 efforts from three points and in Game Four, when they went seven-for-31.

Even in Game Five, the Sixers only made seven of their 25 shots from long range, an unusually poor effort for a team that ranked in the top 10 in terms of three-point shots made during the regular season.

While those figures did not prevent Philadelphia from winning the last two game of the series, against a better team than Miami, the Sixers could struggle if they don't address their issues from long range. At the same time, if the Sixers find their three-point game again, they can become even more dangerous.

Young but not soft

One of the most impressive aspects of the Sixers' first-round win was that it wasn't the straightforward affair the 4-1 scoreline might suggest. The Sixers missed Joel Embiid in the first two games of the series and Miami threw everything at them throughout the series, turning up its defensive dial by a couple of notches.

Despite that and a poor display from beyond the arc, Philadelphia's offense had enough in its locker to deliver triple-digit scores in all five games of the series. Speaking after Game Five, coach Brett Brown highlighted how the Sixers stayed true to their philosophy and never panicked.

"Through rough times, through adversity, for sure, we didn't blink," he told reporters. "We stayed strong in what we were trying to do […] We've got more to do. We've got more to give."

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Head Coach Brett Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers talks to official Tony Brown during the game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on April 19, 2018 in Miami. Eric Espada/Getty Images

The Sixers have been hardened up by three difficult years during which they went 47-199 and now they are playing with the attitude of a team that has nothing to lose and is ahead of schedule. They might be young, but they are not soft.

The East is up for grabs

There is an argument suggesting Philadelphia might still be too raw and inexperienced to dominate the Eastern Conference. Winning a first-round series is one thing, but doing the business against a better team in the second round is quite another. After all, both Toronto and Atlanta won their first-round match-ups over the last two years, before disappearing without trace in the second round.

However, while it is true that Philadelphia still has a lot of ground to cover to establish itself as the leading team in the East, the conference is in a state of flux. The Cleveland Cavaliers are more reliant than ever on LeBron James and reaching a fourth consecutive conference final looks a lot harder than at any stage since The King returned to Ohio.

Despite being ravaged by injuries, Boston continues to surprise but one has to wonder how often the Celtics can go to the well and return with a full bucket in the relentless environment that is playoffs basketball.

Toronto, meanwhile, looked to have carried their stunning regular season form into the playoffs but has blown hot and cold against the Wizards so far. Would anybody really bet against the Sixers?

What next for The Process? Why Philadelphia Is Ready to Dominate the Eastern Conference | Sports
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