Since October, there have been a total of 1,230 NBA games played among 30 teams from all over the country. Fast forward to mid-April and here we are, with just over half of these teams remaining in championship contention and playoffs underway in the days to come. There is some serious competition this season and a decent amount of upsets could occur. Below, The matchup including the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers and the sixth-seeded Miami Heat will be previewed, including analysis of each team and a prediction.
The Heat finished the season with a 44-38 overall record, ending the season with a seven-point win against the first-seeded Toronto Raptors. The team hasn’t been the luckiest with injuries, with guys like Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside all missing extended periods of time.
The team has had a solid all-around season after barely missing the playoffs last season, and coach Erik Spoelstra will be the first to say that they deserve every bit of this opportunity. They should roll out their normal starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside, while bringing key guys like Dwyane Wade and Kelly Olynyk off the bench. This is a very deep Heat team that has shown plenty of versatility all season, and there is no doubt this will carry on into the postseason.
Acquiring veteran Dwyane Wade from the Cavaliers via trade in the middle of the season helps this team in terms of leadership in a huge way. Wade has been in positions like this countless times and can be relied on to be a mentor and play big minutes when needed.
A big story from the season has been Hassan Whiteside, who starts for the Heat but often fails to touch the floor in the fourth quarter. Many suspect this is due to matchups and small-ball lineups, but the amount of time the young talent has spent on the bench late in games is pretty absurd. It will be interesting to see what Spoelstra decides to do with him and how often he will use him, because his shot-blocking ability and improved offensive game can help this team in many ways.
The Sixers are without a doubt the hottest team in the league, reaching a 52-30 record overall, which includes a current 16-game winning streak. They have not lost a game since March 13 in a tough three-point loss to the Indiana Pacers, so it has been almost a month since the scoreboard was not to their advantage when the final buzzer sounded.
Joel Embiid is doubtful to return for Game one of the series, let alone the majority of the series. With this in mind, Philly should come out with a lineup of Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Amir Johnson (assuming this is the case, 30% of the floor will be a “Johnson” #stats). Simmons is Simmons and will dominate as usual, as the combination of defense and three-point threats that fill out the remainder of the lineup is scary.
Their bench isn’t half bad either, as Markelle Fultz has progressed rapidly since his return from an injury late last month. Despite not starting, defensive juggernaut Richaun Holmes should get a lot of minutes at center until Joel Embiid returns from injury and Ersan Ilyasova is another late-addition veteran that will play key minutes and further assist this team in making it far.
If their win-streak to end the season doesn’t say enough, this is not a team anyone wants to face in the playoffs. Their depth, athleticism and combination of youth and veteran mentorship is almost the perfect storm for any NBA team.
These two teams tied their season series 2-2, with all four wins going to the home team and the largest margin of victory being nine points (Miami on March 8). While this normally calls for a close battle and a great series, Philadelphia is a much, much different team than they were when they last played Miami.
For one thing, they got first overall pick Fultz back and in basketball shape, and has contributed at crucial times for this squad. Miami has been pretty consistent all season, and while they have been consistently good, they are nowhere near the level of “good” that Philadelphia is at right now.
Plenty of fans and people all over have said that the 76ers in “a year or two” will be the real deal, but they don’t need to wait any time to claim a title like that. They have all the weapons to succeed and they should cruise past Miami. It’s a long shot, but it’s not impossible for this team to come out of the Eastern Conference. The Cavs and maybe the Raptors will give them a great fight, but when healthy, this team is absolutely lethal. I’ll give Miami one game, simply due to the 4-0 record these teams have when playing at home against each other this season.