Don't bother looking at the lineups too closely for tonight's showdown in Miami. If you do, I'm sure you'll be filled with a feeling of dread. LeBron James vs. a one-legged Andre Iguodala. Dwyane Wade vs. Jodie Meeks/Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams. Chris Bosh vs. Elton Brand and Thad Young. It's not pretty, on paper. If you want something to feel optimistic about, instead look to the benches, because Doug Collins is Philly's clear advantage tonight.
The question isn't whether Collins can come up with a game plan to force Miami into doing something they don't want to do, that's pretty much a certainty. The question is whether he's going to break it out tonight, or keep it in his back pocket for a potential first-round matchup in the playoffs. I have a feeling he may just wait.
The Sixers lost to Miami twice early in the season (both games were part of their atrocious 3-13 start, and both games were competitive). This Miami team doesn't really resemble that Miami team. Of course, the Sixers have changed quite a bit over the past four moths as well.
Personnel-wise, Miami has added in a couple of decrepit vets in Dampier and Bibby. They're far from a complete team, in fact, they only go three deep in terms of legit NBA players at this point. Their centers are stiffs, and their other perimeter guys basically just shoot threes. Of course, their front three is composed of two top players and Chris Bosh, who used to be pretty good.
If the Sixers are going to have any chance, they're going to need to do two things. (1) Get Wade and LeBron to fall in love with deep jumpers (2) Take care of the basketball. Miami is a lot like Philly in that they can struggle in the half-court offense. They thrive on forcing turnovers then unleashing their ungodly athleticism in the open floor. These two keys kind of go hand-in-hand. If you can force them into the half court and then clog the lane on Wade and LeBron, they will settle for jumper after jumper. They'll fall into streaks of poor isolation play.
This game is probably going to be a loss, especially with Iguodala's injury. If they do shock the world with a road win in Miami, it's probably not going to come down to x's and o's, it's going to come down to 48 minutes of effort. They're out-matched, undermanned, and I'd say they probably won't get the benefit of the doubt on many whistles either. That's not exactly a winning combination. If they're going to have any chance, it's going to come down to Doug Collins convincing them they belong, telling them no one else thinks so, then motivating them to go out and send a message to a possible first-round opponent.
The beauty of this Sixers season as opposed to the last is that even though I know they should lose, you just never know. Maybe Collins and the Sixers can pull another rabbit out of their hat. I do know one thing, 7:30 can't get here soon enough.
Prediction: MIA 97, PHI 85
The tip is at 7:30pm (and about 200 pseudo-fans will be in their seats at the tip). Game thread will land around 6pm. Let's hear why the Sixers have a shot in this one in the comments.