Philadelphia 76ers at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the 76ers 104-102 in their last meeting on Feb. 14. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What are the playoff implications for Tuesday night’s game?
Couper Moorhead: The HEAT currently sit in the No. 8 seed, three games up on Detroit in No. 9 and two games back of Philadelphia for No. 7. Having lost the first two games to the 76ers, if Miami loses Tuesday night they’ll officially lose the season series and thus the postseason tiebreaker with Philadelphia. If they win Tuesday night, they’ll be able to at least tie the season series next week in the fourth game of the matchup and push any potential tiebreaker deeper into the rules.
Obviously the tiebreaker is important should Miami find themselves tied with Philly for the No. 8 seed, as they learned last year when Chicago jumped over them for the final spot in the playoffs thanks to the tiebreaker. But it’s important even if both teams make the playoffs. If both teams go on a run and finish, say, around the No. 4 or 5 seed, a tiebreaker – or even a combined tiebreaker if other teams are involved – could mean the different in homecourt in the first round. Remember two years ago when four teams tied for the third seed and Miami came out ahead on the tiebreaker, thus opening up their postseason with two games at home against Charlotte? You never know exactly when or where the tiebreaker is going to be important, but you don’t want to get to April and wish you could have that one game back.
Joe Beguiristain: As Coup mentioned above, this game is very important since the HEAT have already lost the prior two matchups with the 76ers this season. With a win on Tuesday and in their next meeting on March 8 (also in Miami), the HEAT would put themselves in a much better position.
If you look at each team’s upcoming slate, both Miami and Philadelphia have a similar strength of schedule moving forward. That said, nothing is guaranteed with either team. It’s all about taking care of business, especially at home.
Like Erik Spoelstra said on Saturday before the HEAT defeated the Grizzlies, “It’s time.”
2: How were the 76ers able to beat Miami last time without Joel Embiid being available?
Couper: Despite the HEAT holding a lead as large as 24 points, forcing 17 turnovers, holding Philadelphia to 25.7 percent shooting from three and 42.4 percent overall, the 76ers managed to come back and win thanks to one very specific number – 23 offensive rebounds.
The HEAT shot a perfectly efficient 35-of-77 (45 percent) from the field, but the 76ers took a whopping 15 more shots en route to a 65-point second half and a two-point win. You don’t need to look any further for reasons behind this specific loss. If Miami finishes a handful more of their defensive possessions, they win the game. That’s all there is to it.
Joe: That last matchup on Feb. 14 was truly a tale of two halves, as Miami held Philadelphia to just 34 percent shooting in the first half before the 76ers exploded after halftime and shot 51.1 percent the rest of the way. As Coup mentioned above, the amount of offensive rebounds the HEAT gave up certainly didn’t help matters. Down the stretch, there were multiple sequences where Miami dug in and got a stop only to see Philadelphia obtain a second-chance opportunity. Hopefully that’ll be cleaned up this time around.
Despite those struggles though, James Johnson really stood out. In particular, JJ did his best to keep things under control when Philadelphia was mounting a comeback and set up his teammates with some easy looks. On the flip side of the ball, the burly forward rose to the occasion against Ben Simmons and limited the talented rookie as much as possible. We’ll see if the 31-year-old can work his magic once again.
3: While it’s still in question, how could Kelly Olynyk impact the rotation should he return to the team Tuesday night?
Couper: The first answer is always that only Erik Spoelstra knows, but we can always pontificate on his options. Olynyk could start alongside Hassan Whiteside, of course, which would then theoretically push Justise Winslow, or Tyler Johnson, to a bench unit that has added Dwyane Wade since Olynyk’s injury. Olynyk could come off the bench – he plays well from either spot – but again that creates more decisions for Spoelstra as far as minute distribution. You might be able to see where we are going with this, but the general point is that no matter where Olynyk plays the rotation is going to be impacted one way or another simply because there are a ton of eligible players and only so many minutes to go around.
As far as Tuesday night goes Olynyk’s return can do nothing but help stretch the floor and spread out Philadelphia’s defenders, especially given that their size and length is one of their main advantages. On the other end, however, Olynyk will have to combat the versatility of Dario Šarić, who added four offensive rebounds of his own in the last matchup.
Important as this game is for tiebreaker purposes, and making the playoffs purposes, figuring out how to re-integrate Olynyk back into the rotation and where things go from there is of greater concern on a macro level. Miami could lose Tuesday night, lick their wounds and go on to the next one. How the rotation settles itself is going to have as much an impact on the rest of the season as just about anything else the HEAT do.
Joe: Kelly Olynyk’s possible return could impact the rotation in a big way. All season long, the 7-footer has proven to be a versatile piece who can play with pretty much anybody. In turn, that leaves Erik Spoelstra with a tough decision to either start him at the four or have him come off the bench and roll with Dwyane Wade in that second unit. If I had to guess, I’d assume that Spoelstra would start Olynyk since that’s where the big man was before his injury.
Still, Olynyk will provide a major boost to the offense regardless of where or when he plays. In fact, Miami has scored 107.8 points per 100 possessions with the 26-year-old on the floor. That’s good enough for the best on the team.
- The HEAT are 31-29 on the year.
- The 76ers have won seven of eight and enter the contest at 32-26.
- Josh Richardson leads Miami with 1.4 steals per game.
- Joel Embiid leads Philadelphia in points (23.9), rebounds (11.2) and blocks (1.8) per contest.
- HEAT Offense: 103.3 (25)
- HEAT Defense: 104.1 (7)
- 76ers Offense: 105.7 (13)
- 76ers Defense: 102.9 (4)