For the fourth time in this abbreviated season, the Sixers will face an irritated Miami Heat team. On Sunday, the Heat were embarrassed on ABC by the Celtics. They've been playing mediocre basketball, especially on the road, since the All Star break. Tonight, they return home where they sport a 21-2 record and will assuredly be looking to right exact some revenge against the Sixers.
If the Sixers come out like they did the last time these teams met, they're going to get embarrassed. If they let Miami do whatever they want. If they don't play like the hungry team, getting on the floor after every loose ball, blowing up every pick-and-roll, crashing the boards with reckless abandon. If they don't bring the fight to the Heat, they're going to be buried at the half and then we're all going to be treated to more shots of Wade and LeBron yukking it up on the bench in the third quarter.
Believe it or not, there is something positive to take from that game in mid-March, however. The Heat let up, and the Sixers came storming back, which you probably shouldn't read a whole lot into, but there were a couple of things the Sixers did differently. First, Thad Young did an awesome job guarding Chris Bosh, especially away from the hoop. He was using his quickness to poke at the ball, and challenging Bosh's jumpers. Miami didn't make the adjustment and get him the ball on the blocks. Keeping Bosh out on the floor, and limiting the wide-open looks from the foul line is going to be extremely important, and Thad is really the best suited to handle Bosh if he can get him to play in space rather than using his height advantage down low.
Against the Heat, the best you can hope for on the perimeter is to make LeBron and Wade somewhat inefficient, at least relatively speaking. Iguodala, Turner and Jrue will need to make those guys work hard for their points, but accept the fact that they're going to score. The key to beating the Heat is making those guys have to work hard (and settle for jumpers), while limiting the damage the bit players do. Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Shane Battier, James Jones, Udonis Haslem. Those guys are remoras. They feed off the big three and kill you in aggregate off wide-open looks. Do your best to play Wade and LeBron straight up, don't leave the shooters open for threes and keep the bigs off the offensive glass. It's a tall order, but it's not impossible.
It's corny, it pains me to say it, but the Sixers need to want this game more than the Heat if they're going to have any chance. Miami is angry, without a doubt. The Sixers may be well-fed after beating the Hawks in a close game. They need to completely forget about that. They're one game behind the Celtics for the #4 seed. They're also one game behind the Hawks for the #6 seed, two games behind Indy for the #5 seed and two-and-a-half games behind the Magic for the #3 seed. They need this win. They need every win in the worst way. It's about time they start playing like it, for 48 minutes straight.
The tip is at 7:30pm. Game thread will land around 5:30.