It seems fitting; Miami’s first game debuting the NBA’s most-hated trio was in Philadelphia, and now their first playoff series in search of their inaugural championship starts with the Sixers. The Sixers themselves have had an amazing season, although this was certainly not reflected by attendance. If not for the 3-13 start the Sixers would have been in serious contention for the East’s fifth, or maybe even fourth seed. Their turnaround from that aforementioned awful start, spearheaded by mostly inspiring basketball, save an early Sunday showdown with Sacramento after a certain rap concert, was awesome to watch and can be largely attributed to Coach Collins’ ability to adapt. The Sixers have became a formidable foe for anyone, as late season wins over the likes of the Spurs, Celtics, and Bulls have illustrated.
However, with that being said, the Heat will send the Sixers home for the summer in a series that should last no longer than six games.
It’s sad because the Sixers have really given it a good run after many counted them out after sixteen games, as it seems like the players are largely accepting and embracing their roles for the first time in a few seasons, helping the team to hit its stride. But, Miami has also hit its stride and suddenly looks like the best team in the East, as well as a serious title contender. Just as the Sixers have gelled in the second half of the season, so have the Heat, who look to have worked out many of the lingering lineup questions that haunted them through the season’s first half. With the focus becoming clearer with the start of the playoffs, I expect to see a more motivated and ferocious Miami Heat team, with the comfort of a tumultuous regular season in the rearview.
Match-up wise the Heat have it. The Sixers are stronger at point guard with Jrue Holiday and Lue Williams, but this is where their advantages end. Neither team is especially strong at center, but the Heat are stacked everywhere else. While the Sixers have options to throw at LeBron, no one in the League, let alone on the Sixers, can completely control him, especially with the gleam from his first Championship ring illuminating the end of the tunnel.
While I’m not too worried about Bosh, as Brand and Thad Young should keep him honest on both ends, Dwayne Wade will serve as the difference maker. Philadelphia has no available answer for Wade, who is probably salivating at the opportunity to face the Sixers.
Drawing a first round matchup with Miami is unfortunate, but should not detract from the success the Sixers attained this season. The squad showed a lot of heart while fighting an uphill battle for most of the season. In the end, Miami will move on, but not without a fight from Philadelphia.