Three times the Sixers have played the Miami Heat this season and three times they have come away with losses. Two have been of the blowout variety, the last one a six-point loss in which the Sixers roared back after falling behind by as many as 29 points.
Last season, of course, the two teams met in the first round of the playoffs with Miami surviving in five games.
"I think it’s matchups," said coach Doug Collins. "There’s no secret that they have had great success against the Sixers. We have played them well in stretches this year. The first time we played them well for 34 or 35 minutes. The second time we played them 36 good minutes and the last time we played them we played 24 good minutes. So we haven’t put a consistent 48 minute game against this team. I thought in the playoffs, except for Game 2, I thought we played them consistently well for 48 minutes. But we haven’t been able to do that for some reason. They’ve jumped us early, we’ve played from behind and I’m sure they’re going to try to do that again."
Miami could go two ways in this one. Will they play like the team they were in Boston on Sunday when they lost by 19 points, or will they be their dominating selves against a Sixers team that really struggles at both ends of the floor against the Heat?
Either way, the Heat will have to face the Sixers without guard Dwyane Wade.
Officially Wade is out with a bruised knee. But if you look a little bit into the situation, the Heat host the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night, so giving Wade the night off against the Sixers probably ensures he'll play against the Thunder. Many have predicted that the Heat and Thunder will meet in the NBA Finals.
"He bumped knees in the Boston game (on Sunday)," said Spoelstra of Wade. "He was able to go through walk-through (Monday). He was able to do some things today in the shoot around, but we want to be very smart about it right now. We'll do treatments tonight and reevaluate him tomorrow. Hopefully it will improve in the next 24 hours."
Without Wade, Collins said he expects to see plenty of LeBron James with the ball in his hands.
"When we played them the first time they didn't have him and what ended up happening was LeBron had the ball a lot more," said Collins. "He played more like a point guard that night. I'm sure they're probably going to try and go to Bosh a lot, too. They'll miss Wade a lot, but they'll be giving you a different look."
Since the All-Star break Miami has struggled, winning just 10 of their 18 games. They have, however, won each of their six home games. Coach Erik Spoelstra said his club is like two different teams at home and on the road.
The Sixers will be totally healthy tonight, as Doug Collins said at this morning's shootaround that Spencer Hawes' minutes limitations has been lifted. A key player for the Sixer in the game will be Elton Brand. When the team is going well against Miami, Brand is usually scoring and getting good shots, which opens the floor for players like Hawes and Thaddeus Young. Defensively, the Sixers sort of just have to hope James or Chris Bosh have tough nights or the absence of Wade is too much to overcome.
"Bosh hurts us," said Collins. "So when Bosh hurts you and you can count on Wade and LeBron getting theirs. So now you’re helping and now all of the sudden (Shane) Battier and (Mario) Chalmers and (Norris) Cole are getting their open shots.
The Sixers return home tomorrow to face the Toronto Raptors.