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Preview Play-in | Philadelphia Sixers (7) — Miami Heat (8)

Few people imagined the Sixers and the Heat not finish in the Top 6 of the Eastern Conference, at the start of this 2023/24 financial year. However, more than six months later, here are the two teams forced to go through a play-in of all dangers, after having each experienced a season marked by the injuries of several executives (Joel Embiid and De'Anthony Melton of a side, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro on the other).

The winner of this duel, as enticing as it is undecided, will in any case have the opportunity to meet the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, while the loser will have to play a new knife match against the survivor of the clash between the Bulls and the Hawks, in order to hope to join the Celtics at the start of the playoffs.

The context is set and a big battle awaits us between Philadelphiamore comfortable at home than outside, and Miamimore comfortable outside than at home.

PRESENTATION OF THE SIXERS

The holders: K. Lowry, T. Maxey, K. Oubre Jr, T. Harris, J. Embiid
The replacements: B. Hield, N. Batum, P. Reed, C. Payne, M. Bamba, K. Martin…
The absents : D. Melton, R. Covington
The coach: N.Nurse

Without Joel Embiid for two months, the Sixers held on as best they could (11-18 between the end of January and the end of March), before finishing their regular season strong with a series – still ongoing – of eight victories in a row. The dynamic therefore plays in favor of this particularly strong squad, with a complementary starting five and a deep bench, all led by a coach who knows how to shine in the playoffs. Exactly what you need to go far in the spring… provided, of course, that injuries don't ruin everything at the worst time.

The strong point

The wealth of the workforce. With confidence and a great collective dynamic, the Sixers know that they are cut out to go far in the playoffs because, in addition to Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, the team bosses, Nick Nurse can also rely on profiles like those of Tobias Harris, Kelly Oubre Jr, Buddy Hield, Kyle Lowry, Nicolas Batum, De'Anthony Melton or even Paul Reed depending on adversity. Enough to calmly look forward to the rest of the competition if everyone is on their two feet, because we have clearly seen to what extent this group could be threatening as a whole.

The weak point

Joel Embiid's health. With their MVP in uniform, the Sixers have a very nice record of 31 victories and 8 defeats. Except that, when he is not there, and this has often been the case from December and especially January, they only have 16 victories and 27 defeats. Suffice to say that Philadelphia depends more than ever on the state of health of Joel Embiid, who also suffered a scare in his left knee last week. With him and such a supporting cast, everything seems possible collectively but, without him, the hopes of a title automatically disappear…

PRESENTATION OF THE HEAT

The holders: T. Herro, J. Butler, Ca. Martin, N. Jovic, B. Adebayo
The replacements: D. Robinson, J. Jaquez Jr, K. Love, P. Mills, D. Wright, H. Highsmith, T. Bryant…
The absents : T. Rozier, J. Richardson
The coach: E. Spoelstra

We take (almost) the same ones and start again. Like last season, the Heat relies on a Jimmy Butler – Bam Adebayo axis, surrounded by lieutenants (Tyler Herro, Terry Rozier), soldiers (Caleb Martin, Jaime Jaquez Jr, Duncan Robinson…) and veterans (Kevin Love, Patty Mills) quality. A group capable of the best and the worst in a match, and always masterfully led by Erik Spoelstra, while Terry Rozier is there novelty, replacing Kyle Lowry now present in the opposing camp. The problem is that Rozier is still bothered by his neck and will not play this game…

The strong point

The playoff experience. NBA finalist in 2020 and more recently in 2023, the Heat are used to long runs in the playoffs, especially when they are not expected at such a party. We remember that, last season, the Floridians fought for the title even though they did not come far from elimination in the play-in and were seeded 8 in the playoffs. Proof that this group, sublimated by a Jimmy Butler never more concerned and motivated than in the spring, is to be taken seriously regardless of its ranking, as long as it is 100%…

The weak point

Lack of continuity. Although the Florida group may know each other, the fact remains that Erik Spoelstra has often had to modify his starting five due to injuries to everyone. Consequently, the Heat fielded no less than… 36 different ones throughout this exercise, establishing a new franchise record. Not ideal, when we still need to properly integrate Terry Rozier (absent) into this ensemble. Probably also one of the reasons why this team struggles so much to function well in attack (only the 21st most effective in the country…).

THE KEY TO THE MATCH

The Joel Embiid – Bam Adebayo duel. We know that the main threat on the Sixers side in this play-in is named Joel Embiid and, if the Heat manages to stop him, or rather slow him down, he will have a good chance of leaving Pennsylvania with victory. The good news is that the Florida franchise can count on Bam Adebayo, candidate for the title of Defender of the Year and the All-Defensive First Team, to best hinder the one who will support him in the American racket at the Olympics from Paris this summer. Still, it won't be easy for the Miami pivot, who will have to hope for a great collective effort to succeed in his mission.

REGULAR SEASON

Tie 2-2

December 25th : Miami – Philadelphia (119-113)
February 14: Philadelphia – Miami (104-109)
March 18 : Philadelphia –Miami (98-91)
April 4: Miami – Philadelphia (105-109)

VERDICT

Philadelphia, because in front of their entire audience and with better momentum (8 wins in a row!), it is hard to imagine the Sixers being surprised from the play-in by this Heat, certainly always difficult to maneuver, but deprived of Terry Rozier and ultimately not better armed collectively, particularly offensively. Especially since the Joel Embiid – Tyrese Maxey duo will have enough to make Miami suffer, as was the case two weeks ago, during the only match of the season in which Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid participated.

HOURLY

At 1:00 a.m., Wednesday night to Thursday.

Who will face the Knicks in the first round?

SEE ALSO:  Television: NBA audiences on the rise to start the new year | NBA
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