MIAMI ( Associated Press) — In the mind of Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra, an injury situation with Joel Embiid doesn’t doom the Philadelphia 76ers.
He believes this will only strengthen his resolve.
Clearly, the 76ers aren’t going to be a better team without Embiid, the scoring champion and MVP finalist currently sidelined by a right orbital fracture and mild concussion. That said, the 76ers played the Heat once this season without an ambiance — and won. They will try to do it again on Monday night when Philadelphia tours Miami in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“Whenever you’re working with a team that needs to change a little bit, it immediately gives them an underlying feeling,” Spoelstra said. “But then again, what we’re trying to achieve is very difficult. When you approach it like that, it puts you there to compete at a higher level, the level that’s going to be necessary. “
Heat is not in perfect health. Jimmy Butler is slowed down by a knee pain, Tyler Herrow caught a cold that turned into an upper respiratory-type disorder – but not COVID-19 – and PJ Tucker is dealing with a calf issue Huh. (All three are expected to play on Monday.) And Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry missed the last two games of the first-round series against Atlanta with a hamstring strain, so the Heat can’t be sure his point guard will return again. will be 100%.
“I think both rosters are going into this fight knowing that both sides have got enough to get the job done,” Butler said. “We have a job to do. They have a job to do. But I’m counting on the Miami Heat.”
The 76ers need no exaggeration to realize that they can achieve success against Miami. They only need to pop into tape from March 21.
Embiid didn’t play that night. The 76ers didn’t even have James Harden. Did not make any difference. Philadelphia outclassed Miami 45–34, outscored the Heat 45–30 from a 3-point range and won 113–106.
“Well, the biggest adjustment is that we don’t have Joel,” said 76ers coach Doc Rivers, clearly exaggerating for emphasis. “There’s no good in that. But we had a game without Joel against him and honestly, we won the game but I didn’t have Joel more than what he saw, I think James out That game, I think, probably played a purpose mentally. Now that’s not going to happen. They don’t care who we have on the floor.”
The 76ers went 6-8 this season without Embiid. Plus, with Harden, the 76ers still have a player who is four years removed from being MVP and two years removed from being back-to-back-to-back scoring champions.
“Frankly, it’s just us finding out what we can do during a game in the playoffs,” said Philadelphia forward Tobias Harris. “It’s always getting used to and figuring out how the other teams are playing, what they’re taking, what they’re allowing, and capitalizing on us in that regard.”
Only six players (Tyris Maxie, Isaya Joe and Harris for the 76ers; Tucker, Duncan Robinson and Max Strauss for the Heat) played in all four Philadelphia–Miami games this season. The 76ers’ defense was stellar with Gabe Vincent (21.0ppg in two games), the only Heat player to average over 20. The team’s statistics were incredibly close: Miami had a slight lead in points (404–400) and assists (92–89) ), Philadelphia had a rebound lead (164–159). The 76ers made 44.8%, the Miami 44.6%.
This is a matchup of two of the all-time winning playoff coaches. Rivers (102 wins) is fourth on the NBA postseason list behind Phil Jackson (229), Pat Riley (171) and Greg Popovich (170). Spoelstra (89) moves from the top four to eighth, followed by Larry Brown (100), Red Orbach (99) and Jerry Sloan (98). Fun fact: If Miami wins Games 1 and 2 of this series, Spoelstra will pass Riley – the Heat president and his boss – in playoff winning percentage.
head to head
This is the third Miami–Philadelphia playoff series. The other two were first-round matchups: Miami won five games in 2011, Philadelphia won five games in 2018. Each team has two players remaining on the roster from that series – Embiid and Furkan Korkamaz for the 76ers, Olympic gold medalists Adebayo and Udonis Haslem for Bam Heat.
Home, Street, Harden doesn’t matter. The division of his career is uncanny. For his career, he averages 24.9 points at home, 24.5 points on the road. In home games, he has shot 44% from the field, 36% from 3-point range and 86% from the foul line. And on the road, his percentage is the same. But he has only 39% as a pro in Miami, his fourth lowest street percentage behind Charlotte (37%), Boston (38%) and Indiana (38%).
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Embiid’s injury has left Philadelphia with the longest shot at the playoffs. The 76ers are the biggest underdog in any of the four conference semi-final series. As East and West Finals forces began on Sunday, Miami was the second favorite in the East (behind Boston) and the fourth-best odds for an NBA title behind Phoenix, Golden State and the Celtics.
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