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  • Even as the Philadelphia 76ers exceeded expectations this season Joonas Donskoi Jersey , those who have indeed trusted the process still could not have imagined the team’s quick ascension to the NBA’s elite.

    Joel Embiid, for one, isn’t about to pump the brakes on what has been a whirlwind ride that has the 76ers heading into their Game 5 home matchup on Tuesday sporting a 3-1 lead over the visiting Miami Heat.

    “A lot of people say we have a bright future,” said Embiid, whose 76ers host the Heat at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center. “But I think our time is now. We have a special team and I feel like now we have a pretty good chance to go forward.”

    Speaking of the now: With their backs against the wall, the Heat are not flailing their arms wildly, looking for any target.

    They are pointedly focused on the present: Game 5 and the 76ers.

    “It’s not necessarily us against the world,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s us against the Philadelphia 76ers. We have to find a way to finish games. They’ve really nailed us in the fourth quarters of all four games, except the one we were able to pull away. We just have to do better. Through three quarters, we’ve been up. It’s going to require a full 48-minute game of our absolute best effort.”

    Miami has been outscored by Philadelphia by an astounding 42 points in just the fourth quarters through four games. Even in the Heat’s 113-103 Game 2 win at Philadelphia, the 76ers still outscored Miami 28-27 in the fourth quarter.

    In a roundabout way, that Game 2 loss — which snapped Philadelphia’s 17-game winning streak — actually gave 76ers coach Brett Brown some much-needed locker room material heading into the game.

    “Everybody’s trying to break somebody’s spirit,” Brown said Monday. “It’s always the same thing. It happens on the other side of it. And I know (Spoelstra), who is a great coach, would be in his locker room saying Evgenii Dadonov Jersey Kids , ‘All we got to do is win a game and come home.’

    “They’re going to live in a really isolated, sort of roomed-in world of, ‘Let’s just win a game. We won a game last time we were here, and just come home and figure it out.’ You can see it.”

    Knowing his team can close out a hungry opponent on Tuesday, Brown isn’t changing his message too much.

    “My intention is not to speak anything into existence,” Brown said. “It’s all about trying help the team win. Like, we want to get better. We’re gonna. We’re going to go into Tuesday night and we’re going to get better. I believe that if we think like that, act like that, coach like that, then the habit becomes, I hope, we’re going to win.”

    J.J. Redick, no stranger to heated playoff series, echoed his coach’s thoughts on Monday.

    In Game 4, Redick led the 76ers with 24 points en route to a 106-102 win in a game that Philadelphia trailed by four after three quarters.

    “You’re feeling each other out and then later on in the series you have to deliver a crushing blow Tyler Ennis Jersey ,” Redick said. “You have to finish that. A team like Miami, their culture, their organization, their group of guys, they have fighters. They have warriors on their team. Every game in this series has been tough and there’s no indication that Game 5 will be different. It’s going to be a tough game.”

    The Jacksonville Jaguars have assembled the most expensive defense in NFL history. They believe it's among the most talented, too.

    The group will cost more than $110 million (nearly $90 million to starters) in 2018 and includes eight guys with at least one Pro Bowl appearance. It's loaded front to back, a mix of youth and experience, budding stars and wily veterans, huge egos and team players.

    Together, they make the Jaguars a trendy pick to reach the Super Bowl for the first time.

    Getting Jacksonville to this point was no easy endeavor, considering the team lost 63 of 80 games before breaking through and making the playoffs in 2017. General manager Dave Caldwell (with some recent help from Tom Coughlin ) built most of the stacked defense over the last three years, benefiting from the best draft class in franchise history, one of the top free-agent hauls in NFL lore and a midseason trade that made a difference.

    Here's a look at how Jacksonville pieced together its high-priced and highly touted D, which returns 12 of its top 14 players from 2017:

    DRAFT GEMS

    Linebacker Telvin Smith turned out to be a steal in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft. The former Florida State standout has 447 tackles 鈥?more than any other player over the last four seasons 鈥?seven interceptions and 6 1/2 sacks while missing just four games. He signed a four-year, $45 million extension in October that included $20 million guaranteed.

    Bigger contracts are likely in store for Jacksonville's 2016 class Anton Stralman Jersey , which included All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey (first round), linebacker Myles Jack (second) and Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (third). The trio is a rare find in the same draft and a major part of the team's core.

    Ramsey is a lock-down defender, quite possibly the best at his position. Jack makes plays all over the field as part of one of the fastest linebacker corps in the league. Ngakoue has 20 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in two seasons.

    "Not everyone hits on their draft picks," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. "We are lucky that happened, but it is also a credit to the three individuals that come in every day and they work and strive to be the best that they can be."

    FREE-AGENT FINDS

    After pinching pennies and rolling over salary-cap space for several years, the Jaguars spent big in 2016 and '17. They signed five defensive starters to contracts totaling $275 million, including $122.5 million guaranteed. Here's the unique part: The team has no regrets about a dime spent because they hit on all five.

    They gave defensive tackle Malik Jackson a six-year, $85.5 million contract in 2016 and signed safety Tashaun Gipson to a five-year, $36 million deal. Jackson made his first Pro Bowl last season, and coach Doug Marrone was adamant that Gipson should have been there, too.

    As good as that duo performed, Jacksonville's 2017 class was even better. All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell, Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye and hard-hitting safety Barry Church exceeded expectations, no easy task in free agency.

    Campbell had a career year, finishing with 14 1/2 sacks in his 10th NFL season Authentic David Perron Jersey , after signing a four-year, $60 million contract. Bouye, who inked a five-year, $67.5 million deal, tied for third in the league with six interceptions and didn't allow a touchdown in the regular season. Church notched a career-high eight pass breakups to go along with four interceptions and 1 1/2 sacks.

    None of the five has missed a game or even a start since joining Jacksonville, either.

    "We just have too many athletes on defense," Bouye said. "We have to capitalize on this opportunity while it is here."

    BARTER SYSTEM

    Needing to shore up a shaky run defense in late October, Jacksonville traded a conditional, sixth-round draft pick (it ended up becoming a fifth-rounder) to Buffalo for two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. The Jags ranked 30th in the league against the run without Dareus and eighth with him down the stretch. Dareus and his $10.175 million salary will be in the starting lineup in 2018.

    "We think it all starts up front," Wash said. "It's a situation where we are very fortunate."

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