The last time the Sixers were in Miami was for a polka festival during the lockout. But the time before that was when the Miami Heat eliminated them from the 2011 NBA Playoffs last April. These Sixers, essentially the same team as the one that fell 9 months ago (only Dongless), are much, much better than the last time LeBron James powderpuff girl'd on the sidelines.
Though Doug Collins had his guys ready for a fight in the first round, the Heat were simply too good and after a 3-0 lead, close as some of those games may have been, the series was never in doubt. Not anymore, said Smeagol. The Sixers and Heat rank near the top of the league in most offensive categories, but the Philadelphia defense is where they have the edge. They're the best in terms of opponent's eFG%, while Miami is way down at 17th. Forcing bad shots, defending the three-point line, and attacking on double teams is where they've been especially effective. Miami can't say the same for their "Flip the Switch" defense.
With Dwyane Wade doubtful, this will be the LeBron 'n' Bosh show, featuring a number of drive and kicks with LBJ at the top of the key and their host of three-point shooters waiting in the wings. It'll be interesting to see how much Collins double-teams against easily the best player they've played thus far. As the status of Spencer Hawes is also up in the air, I'm betting on DC going with (gulp) a lot of Tony Battie against the Heat interior instead of rookie Nikola Vucevic. I'm hoping it's not the case, but injuries and veteranness often lead Doug to that aimless conclusion.
A win, in Miami, on the 2nd night of a back to back would absolutely shut people up who don't fully buy into this team's legitimacy just yet. Namely, me. Against the likely NBA champions (in all likelihood minus Wade), that argument may not hold much water anymore. Regardless, one game is one game, it doesn't predict the rest of the season and it shouldn't indicate anything more than this team played better than the other team in one evening of basketball. Remember, the Wizards beat the Thunder - it's a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
Either way, I'm looking forward to, as always, the play of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, who have been occasionally terrific and occasionally phlegm against top tier talent. Thaddeus Young is another guy to watch, especially considering how much Joel Anthony shut him down in last year's playoffs. Coming off a big night, we'll see if the momentum carries him through. Louis Williams has been, there's no other way around it, God-awful the past three games, making 9 of his last 35 shots. You'll likely remember what happened the last time he had a good game against Miami.
Doubt this will be a blowout in either direction but minus Wight Howard, I don't know how much the defense will be able to stop LeBron and Bosh inside. Anticipating a great game - stick around for it!