The postseason seeds are set and the first round is ready to kick off on Saturday in the NBA. While there are several interesting matchups, one of the most fascinating might be when the Miami Heat (44-38, 6th seed) travel to the Wells Fargo Center to take on the Philadelphia 76ers (52-30, 3rd seed) Saturday night with a tipoff time of 8:00 pm ET.
The spread comes in at the Miami Heat +7 and the Philadelphia 76ers -7. The over/under for total points scored is set at 212.
Philadelphia Looks To Keep Hot Play Going Even Without Embiid
News came out on Friday that 76ers All-Star center, Joel Embiid, has been ruled out of game one against the Heat. After suffering an accidental headbutt in a game on March 29th, Embid had been battling both a concussion and a broken bone near his left eye. While he has been cleared of the concussion, he is still recovering from surgery that was performed on March 31.
When he does return, Embiid will have to wear a mask, but for now, he will be out for game one after not feeling completely ready to go in shootarounds and non-contact drills throughout this week leading up to the game.
Even without Embiid, the 76ers have looked unstoppable lately. They have won sixteen straight games and have been getting sensational play even in Embid’s absence. In order to win against the Heat, the 76ers will likely look to Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, who is averaging 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game. Additionally, they will rely on guard JJ Redick (17.1 points per game, 42% from the three) and Dario Saric (14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game) to keep their hot play going. One of the most important players might also be center, Amir Johnson. With Embid out, the 76ers will likely look to Johnson to counter the Heat’s, Hassan Whiteside.
Heat Will Rely on Veteran Presence
While the Miami Heat come into the playoffs not as hot as the 76ers (they are 5-5 in their last 10 games), they do have the advantage of more playoff experience and a roster with more veteran leadership, including Dwayne Wade, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson. They also play a more conservative, slow down tempo and will look to get the 76ers, who are more accustomed to running the floor in transition, out of their game. If the Heat can take advantage of their bench depth and make the young 76ers uncomfortable in the pace of play, they may just have a chance.
The most important player for the Heat might be Hassan Whiteside. While Whiteside has had both injury and consistency issues all season long, he could be the key for the Heat with Joel Embiid out. Whiteside has averaged 14 points and 11.4 rebounds this season and in the last game against the 76ers, on March 8, Whiteside went off for 26 points and 8 rebounds in just a little over 28 minutes of work.
Heat Battle on the Road
Over the course of this season, Miami and Philadelphia split the season series, each having won two games. More importantly, in those four games, all four margins of victory were single digits. I actually expect the 76ers to win, but with the slow it down style of the Heat and the advantage they have in the paint with Whiteside, I like this to be a close game. Take Miami and the +7 points.
Final Pick: Miami Heat +7