The Philadelphia 76ers will host the Miami Heat on National TV (ESPN) Friday night – a team the Sixers have only beaten once in their previous 14 meetings.
The Heat are 31-11, the second seed in the Eastern Conference standings, and lead the Sixers by 6.5 games in the standings. There's no chance the Sixers catch the Heat in the standings, but every game from here on out is crucial for the Sixers' chances of home court advantage in the first round, as they trail the third seed Magic by 2.5 games and five seed Pacers by a game.
Update: Spencer Hawes is OUT tonight
As for the game itself, what really needs to be said? Despite the fact that the Bulls and Thunder have a better record, and the Heat just fell to the Bulls without Derrick Rose, there's no doubt which team is the best team in the NBA. It's the Heat.
The Sixers have played the Heat twice this season and were blown out by 20+ points both times. Spencer Hawes – who returned to the court Wednesday against the Pacers – will be in the lineup for the first time against Miami, as will Evan Turner, who came off the bench in the previous two meetings.
There aren't many teams who can match the Sixers' versatility – both offensively and defensively – from the one-two-three positions, with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala. The Heat are one of those teams, with Chalmers, Wade and James. Jrue's going to have to live in Chalmers jersey, because he's drifted off Mario in previous games, which leads to wide open threes. Turner and Iguodala will likely check Wade and 'Bron, respectively. Those two guys are literally unstoppable, but Turner and Iguodala will make them work.
This is going to be a tough one for the Sixers, especially because I expect the Heat to be focused, coming off a crushing loss to the Rose-less Bulls. The Night Shift's offensive firepower will be needed tonight, and maybe even a few Jodie Meeks bombs. The Sixers are going to have to play damn-near flawless basketball to beat a focused Miami team.
Let's hope the WFC is rockin', Sam Young hits 12 threes in his debut and Evan Turner performs well against the best perimeter player duo in the NBA.
Tip is scheduled for 7:00 EST, on ESPN. Let's go Sixers!