Sarah Todd: On paper the Sixers are definitely the better team. But, Miami has a wealth of playoff experience in their front office, coaching staff, and on the roster. I wouldn’t put it past Dwyane Wade to turn out a couple of games that make us think it’s 2006, and I expect that James Johnson will be working his butt off trying to slow down Ben Simmons, even if its just a tiny bit. The thing that will be the deciding factor in this matchup will be Joel Embiid’s return. With Embiid missing Game 1, it’s conceivable that Miami could steal a game in Philly. Ultimately, I think the Sixers will win out, it’s just a matter of how long it takes. My prediction is Sixers win in six games. My second prediction is that once Embiid returns, the Joel Embiid vs. Hassan Whiteside battle that happens on social media (and the court, I guess) will be a marvel to behold.
David Murphy: Predicting this series is almost useless without knowing how many games Joel Embiid will play. The Sixers have won eight straight since he broke his face against the Knicks, and they beat the Heat in February when Embiid was on the sidelines. On the flip side, Hassan Whiteside played just 18 minutes in that game…since then, the Heat big man has played very well in two straight wins, including a 26-point outing the last time around. If you told me Embiid was going to miss the whole series, I’d have a hard time picking against the Heat. In the end, though, I’ll err on the side of home court advantage and Embiid returning by next weekend and pick the Sixers in six.
Keith Pompey: Not knowing when Joel Embiid is going to play makes predicting the outcome of this series tougher than one can imagine. The Sixers do hope he returns at some point. Let’s just assume Embiid returns in time for Game 2 on Monday night. That would be the best-case scenario. It’s also more than enough time for him to make a difference in the outcome of a best-of-seven series. Embiid is motivated to dominate Hassan Whiteside after the Heat center shoved him in his back in the team’s last meeting. While covering the Sixers, I’ve learned that a motivated Embiid is tough to stop. Sixers win in six games.