The Philadelphia 76ers are entering their series against the Miami Heat without star Joel Embiid available. Do they stand a chance?
Catch this game live on May 3, at 7:30 AM, Manila time.
Away: Philadelphia 76ers (0-0, 0-0 Away)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Tyrese Maxey
- SG: James Harden
- SF: Matisse Thybulle
- PF: Tobias Harris
- C: Paul Reed
The Philadelphia 76ers were pushed to six games by the Toronto Raptors after going up 3-0 in the series, and Doc Rivers’ fear of blowing a 3-0 lead led to him playing Joel Embiid while they were up by 29 points in Game 6. The concussion and shattered face that Embiid suffered happened with 3:58 left in the game.
They got the win, but have likely paid the price of a chance at contending for the title. There’s still no clear timetable for Embiid’s return and according to USA Today, Danny Green said the symptoms were quite severe.
They’ve still got a talented team, but it may simply not be enough to overcome a Miami Heat team that has really found its footing toward the end of the regular season and during the regular season. James Harden, who averaged 19 points, five rebounds, 10.2 assists, a steal and 1.2 blocks in the first round, is now back in the place that he tried to escape from when he forced his way out of Houston: trying to carry a team without a co-star.
Harden tried to do it in Brooklyn, and lasted a year. He tried to do it in Philadelphia, but now Rivers’ boneheaded decision to keep Embiid in has cost them big. Harden will now have to produce far more on offense to keep the Sixers’ dreams alive, and there’s no guarantee he can do that with the Heat’s defense freer to collapse on him.
Tyrese Maxey still has plenty in the tank too, though, so we can expect his offensive numbers to improve even more than the 21.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists he contributed against the Raptors.
Home: Miami Heat (0-0, 0-0 Home)
Projected Starting Five:
- PG: Gabe Vincent
- SG: Max Strus
- SF: Jimmy Butler
- PF: PJ Tucker
- C: Bam Adebayo
The Miami Heat are also missing one of their key players in Kyle Lowry, but his absence is not going to have as big an impact as Embiid’s will for Philadelphia. Gabe Vincent is doing a good job playing stand-in, and Victor Oladipo is set on playing his heart out while reportedly looking for a bigger contract at the end of the season from whoever will pay the price.
Jimmy Butler is doing a good job of being their leading man, averaging 30.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.8 steals over four games against the Atlanta Hawks. His defense and all-around play is going to be even more important against the Sixers, because he’s going to be spending a lot of time guarding James Harden.
Still, the Heat are the far stronger team on paper, which is why they’re big favorites.
Spread: The Heat make a statement in Game 1 and cover the -7.5 spread.
Over/Under: I believe the over 208.5 will hit.