Sixers host Heat tonight

Sixers coach Doug Collins said he will start Tony Battle in place of Spencer Hawes. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

After the Sixers got done their shootaround this morning, coach Doug Collins was more than willing to share his ideas of how his team can compete with the Miami Heat, who will be visiting the Wells Fargo Center tonight in one of the most anticipated regular season games in a long time here.

Miami is coming off a 105-97 loss at Milwaukee on Wednesday night, while the Sixers will be seeking their fifth consecutive win. Both teams have 16-6 records and the Heat defeated the Sixers in Miami by 113-92 three weeks ago. The Sixers were missing Spencer Hawes in that game, while the Heat was missing Dwyane Wade.

"This team tries to impose their will on you right at the start of the game," said Collins. "First of all they are a terrific defensive team, one of the best in the league in steals. We played them in the playoffs last year and our key was live ball turnovers are two points (for them). (Dwyane) Wade and LeBron (James) thrive in the open court and that’s where they get those threes. So you got to take care of the ball and you’ve got to rebound. They beat us on the boards by 21 the last game, before you start defending a play you have to take care of the ball and you have to rebound the ball. This is a team that thrives on easy scores – points in the paint, second chance points, free throw line. You have to try to limit those as much as possible. You have to execute. They have three very active big guys so they are tremendous at pick and roll defense so you have to be able to do different things. You have to be able to get the ball side to side, move the ball and get good shots against this team. We know what we have to do to compete against them. We’re going to have to be ready. We’re going to have to have that edge on our side, home court, we have to use the energy and we can’t let them come out and run a clinic in the first quarter.  Once they get started you can’t get them stopped."

The Sixers will again be without Hawes, who is missing his 10th-straight game due to an Achilles' strain. In his place, Tony Battie will again start with rookies Lavoy Allen and Nikola Vucevic backing him up.

"Tony will start," said Collins. "I’m a firm believer that if it’s working, don’t change it. We’ll read (the situations tonight). The one thing about this team with their bigs being so active, your big guys have to have a little more range on their jump shots. Lavoy or Nik, since we’re missing Spencer, they have a little bit more range on their jump shots than what an E.B. (Elton Brand) does. It’s important on our bigs, because of the help that they give, that our bigs be able to catch that ball and knock down a jump shot. We could see Nik tonight. But Tony has done a great job out there and I’m going to stay with what’s working. If it was Spdencer comeing back tonight, he’d start because he’s our starter."

On Hawes, Collins said: "I think he’s getting better, he will not play tonight. I think hes getting much more confident, much closer. I just said hi this morning. There were no thumbs up or anything so I’m just going to leave that to him. I learned a long time ago when guys are hurt not to ask ‘Are you ready, are you ready?’ Then they start feeling like they have to get back out there. I don’t want him to have that feeling. I want him to come to me and say he’s ready to play now."

More to come...