As the Sixers have looked great through their first four games coming out of the All-Star break, some have commented on their mediocre opponents up to this point.
So far, they’ve dispatched the OK-but-not great Minnesota Timberwolves, and the now 12th-seeded New York Knicks, twice. On Friday, they faced a stiffer test in the sixth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, who they defeated 125-119. The team’s efforts were aided by 33 points from Tyrese Maxey, 25 points and 11 assists by James Harden, and 22 points from Joel Embiid. With the win over Cleveland, they are 39-23 on the season, and are now just two games out of first place in the Eastern Conference behind tonight’s opponent, the Miami Heat.
The Sixers had a great win on Friday, recovering from a ghastly defensive first quarter in which they allowed Cleveland to score 43 points. Now, they’ll test their meddle against a tough, defensive-minded team, who they may see in the playoffs. The Heat are second in the East in point differential, just behind the Boston Celtics, at +4.7 points a game. The Sixers are 11th at +2.4.
The Heat, who are currently 42-22, sit two games ahead of the second-place Sixers, are always a tough challenge, no matter who plays for them. Judging from their record, you’d never know it but their starting five has barely played together this season, as they’ve dealt with extended injuries to Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro. Despite the setbacks, they are playing great basketball, having won eight of their last 10, the same clip as the Sixers during that span.
Doc Rivers and his staff will need to bring their A-game to Miami, whose team is led by one the league’s best tacticians in potential NBA Coach of the Year, Erik Spoelstra. Former Sixer Jimmy Butler, who is currently nursing a toe injury, is listed as questionable. Philly native, and sometimes-Sixers antagonist Kyle Lowry is out for personal reasons. P.J. Tucker, Caleb Martin and Max Strus are also listed as questionable.
Bam Adebayo, who missed a chunk of team with a torn UCL in his right thumb, is having a very good year, averaging 19.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, while playing stellar defense. Joel will have his hands full with one of the league’s excellent two-way bigs.
This will be the third of four games in the season series. Miami defeated the Sixers 101-96 on Dec. 15 despite missing Butler, Lowry, Adebayo and Herro (not the Sixers’ finest performance). The Sixers won the second meeting, 109-98, on Jan. 15, thanks in part to a 25-point second half from Embiid. The teams will clash a final time this regular season in Miami on March 21.
Are the Sixers ready to show the league they’re the East’s best team, after a Friday night game, and travel to Florida? Great question!
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat
When: 8:00 pm ET
Where: Miami Arena, Miami, Florida
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic