It wasn't all that long ago that our very own Philadelphia 76ers were the darlings of the Eastern Conference, racking up wins and leading off SportsCenter during a thoroughly entertaining 10-3 stretch. But, as LeBron James told us recently, there's a new sheriff in town and the P.Y.T. on the nightly highlight shows is none other than the Miami Heat, winners of nine in a row.
Before you look too hard at the numbers, it should be noted that seven of the Heat's victories during their current streak came within the friendly confines of the AmericanAirlines Arena. That said, a fair amount of praise should be given to Dion Waiters: a man whose Super Saiyan-esque performances over the past two weeks have led some to compare the Philadelphia native to Dwyane Wade (read: the good, Flying Death Machine D-Wade and not whatever we're seeing now in Chicago).
All that said, the Heat still aren't a very good basketball team. Yes... Hassan Whiteside is a walking double-double and an imposing force in the middle, and yes... Goran Dragic continues to be a capable playmaker and one of the league's better three-point shooters. But coming into today, Miami stands just 1.5 games ahead of the Sixers in the Eastern Conference standings.
This is a winnable game for the Sixers, even without Joel Embiid, who is back at home
drinking Shirley Temples and playing FIFA nursing his knee contusion. Sans The Process, Brett Brown's primary goal this evening is to find a way to neutralize the impact of Whiteside (who scored a career-high 32 points when these two teams met in November). Fortunately for him, he can lean on Future Chicago Bull Jahlil Okafor Nerlens Noel (if he plays) and/or Richaun Holmes as his primary defensive stopper(s).
The Sixers will be heavily reliant on Ersan Ilyasova for buckets tonight - hopefully, he’ll be able to approximate the 25/10 he put up against the Spurs on Thursday. And, as the fine folks at Hot Hot Hoops pointed out, when the 76ers last played the Heat, T.J. McConnell was a +14 in just 13 minutes, despite chipping in just two points and three assists in a reserve role.
Let's go raise some cats.