We're just a mere 4 hours and 30 minutes away from the Game 1 tip. All week we've been supplying you with analysis, predictions, and cupcakes about what may or may not happen during the the Philadelphia 76ers first round match-up with the Miami Heat. I know you're all sick of the opinions that we have, so we're going to give you a little taste of what's being said about this series over the rest of the internets.
Unless something unexpected takes place, the Sixers will lose the series decisively. Collins will be living and dying with every possession, because that's how he coaches, but he also knows that nothing about the experience can actually be bad.
"If we were an older team and got beat in the first round, you could say the season didn't mean anything. But we're young. We've got seven or eight nice pieces who can continue to grow. People can be cynical and say, 'Aw, you're just getting beat in the first round.' But this experience is important for us. This is a core group of guys who are growing up."
"Chemistry's a wonderful thing, but at the end of the day, you've got to have talent," Collins said. "Miami has come together, and this is what they've been waiting for. The teams that are playing for championships, they couldn't wait for April 16. They've been bored for three months. Teams like us, the little engines that could, we've been trying to get up that hill. We've been fighting for our lives."
"Everything that we're going to be able to do under pressure against incredibly talented players will give us an idea of what we have to do from here," Collins said. "To go from 27 [wins] to 41 wins is a great jump. But the hardest jump is to go from 41 to 50. I told the guys they made a great jump this year, now let's see how we're going to play against the Miami Heat."
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Series prediction: Miami wins, 4-1.
Why: Here’s our analogy: for the Sixers, trying to defend the Heat will be like going out into the winter cold with only one glove or like trying to get warm with a too-small blanket. There’s just not enough to cover it all. If one area is cold, you expose another; it becomes an endless cycle. The Sixers can put Iguodala on LeBron and then Wade will start dominating. If they pull the blanket over Wade, Bosh will start grabbing rebounds inside. Every time they readjust, something will be open, and eventually – even if the Sixers are hustling and scrambling – Miami will capitalize on that superior talent.
"Let's go in and see how we're going to play against the Miami Heat," Collins said he told his team. "Everybody thinks they're going to run us off. If we don't go in with the idea that we can win, we shouldn't go down there. And let's see what we have to do."
"One of the things you have to do is navigate the emotional things you go through as a team in the playoffs," Collins said. "Especially your players: You can't be too high, you can't be too low." "This year, it's us against the world," Holiday said. "Now we have some Philly fans on our back again, but going into the playoffs we're the underdogs."
You tend to see this sort of series every year. The 76ers are good, the Heat are greater. The 76ers are an opportunistic offensive team that drives well and is at its best after securing a turnover and leaking out in transition, and God help you if the team's streaky shooters start hitting.
The 76ers are to be commended for roaring all the way to the East's sixth seed after a 3-13 start, and while the Heat aren't to be commended after their slow start (they didn't really change much outside of myriad lineup looks), this is a team to be feared. The Heat are still amongst the league's best running strictly as an on-paper group of talents, and they've yet to find a groove that doesn't stack one giant heap of talent on another.
The Sixers can compete in this series merely because the Heat have no confident system in which to fall back on, and the team's focus comes and goes. Philly's focus, since December, has been pretty singular, so there's always a game or two to grab from that alone.
Despite going into this game having lost five of six games and being a bit banged up, Collins’ players are in a place of confidence. For those that are headed into unfamiliar territory like second-year point guard Jrue Holiday, there is a dash of giddiness accompanying that confidence.
"I think I will be like a little kid in a candy store," Holiday said of his feeling when the ball goes up in the air on Saturday. "I will be excited and ready to go, maybe a little high wired. I am always juiced before a game, but this will be magnified from what I have heard and I can’t wait."
"We’ve had that happen, but we’ve always been able to fight," Iguodala said opening a series on the road. "We go out there and give whatever team our best shot and in turn we get respect, but the first couple minutes of the game are going to be important."
On preparing for the 76ers:
"Honestly, we all kind of talked. It is special. The postseason is a little bit more preparation. … We came in yesterday, got some packets that was much bigger than the ones that we get for the regular season. … It’s very challenging. It’s more mental than anything else in the postseason."
So really, he said absolutely nothing about preparing for the Sixers.
On his relationship with Erik Spoelstra:
"I think it’s evolved tremendously. We’re learning together. This being my first year with Coach Spo and this being his first year coaching me, we’re still learning each other, but I think it’s evolved over the preseason to midseason to where it is now. We can look at each other and know exactly what we’re thinking. I just try to be that extension, that extra coach on the court for him, while he’s patrolling the sidelines."
As of now, they have us taking the AP National Player of the Year for the second draft in a row.
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