The surprise Sixers square off against the trio from South Beach who have no intentions of letting brotherly love endure.
2. Miami Heat vs. 7. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers did not fare well in their three contests with the Miami Heat during the regular season. They lost each game by an average margin of 10.3 points. This can be attributed to the 14.3 turnovers they committed on average and the Sixers sent the Heat to the free throw line an average of 29.3 times per game. Those numbers are not indicative of a recipe for success. Miami took advantage of Philadelphia’s sloppy play and translated it to the tune of 102.3 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting. It is not as though the Sixers shot poorly, they averaged 45.7 percent shooting in the three games, it is just that Miami limited the fouls they committed and only sent them to the line 15.3 times a game. That is roughly half of the number of trips that the Heat were sent to the charity stripe where they averaged 22.7 made free throws per game.
Both the Heat and 76ers have good defenses. Miami’s defense is rated 103.5 which ranks them fifth in the league while Philadelphia has a rating of 105 which is seventh in the league. Therefore, this series should not be a high scoring affair. However, this will all be predicated on whether the Sixers can limit their turnovers and keep Miami from getting into their transition offense in which they have the best points per possession in the league at 1.22 and shoot 61.1 percent.
Miami’s frontcourt vs. Philadelphia’s frontcourt
Since this Miami team was assembled last summer, questions about their frontcourt have abounded. They will certainly be put to the test against Philadelphia, who have a number of reliable big men who can dominate the blocks and the paint. Elton Brand will look to post up Chris Bosh, or whoever the Heat have guarding him, on the left block, where he operates 73 percent of the time when he is in the post, back him down and then shoot a jumper over him. Thaddeus Young also works well in the post and will use his length to shoot hook shots over his defenders. It will be up to Bosh, Joel Anthony, and Erick Dampier to contest and limit Philadelphia’s post up opportunities.
Iguodala averaged 13.3 points in his games against the Heat this season but it will not be his offense that will be the difference maker. He should be tasked as the primary defender on James. James had a good regular season series against the Sixers averaging 22.7 points on 47.7 percent shooting. However, he only shot 18.2 percent from behind the arc against them. It will be crucial for Doug Collins to play Iguodala on James because in their meetings this season, when he defended James, James only shot 25 percent from the floor on 3-12. However, when James was matched up with any of Philadelphia’s other defenders his shooting percentage was 56.3 on 18-32.
Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Big 3 in Miami dominate the ball so much that it is almost impossible for another player to have any sort of impact during a game. For the Heat to be as successful as they want to be they need one more player to step up for them. It could be anyone, it really does not matter who. Mario Chalmers is the only player on their roster, outside of James, Wade, and Bosh, who has a positive plus/minus rating at a plus 0.86. That is just sad.
Jodie Meeks only played in two of the regular season meetings with Miami and started in just one of them. However, in those two games he lit up the Heat for 17.5 points, which was his highest average against any team this season, on 50 percent shooting including 53.3 percent from downtown. For the Sixers to have success, Meeks will have to duplicate those numbers in this series while also making Wade work defensively so that he cannot concentrate all of his efforts on the offensive side of the ball.
Miami is not very adept at hitting the roll man on pick and rolls but that is because they really only have one viable option to pass to in Bosh. It would be unwise for the Heat to employ the pick and roll regularly because of this and the fact that Philadelphia, due to their length, defends the roll, as well as cuts, very well and are second best in the league at creating turnovers in those situations. Where the Sixers will get burned is on ball screens. When coming off screens, both James and Wade shoot approximately 48 percent. Wade will likely drive to the basket off a screen and James will pull up for a jump shot. The 76ers are one of the worst teams statistically at defending such plays. Philadelphia will be able to hang tough with the Heat and may even fluster them at times but it is unlikely that they will see the second round. The Heat defeat the 76ers 4-1.