Superman versus Batman. Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier. Freddy versus Jason. The Miami Heat "culture" versus the Philadelphia 76ers "process."
The Heat's Saturday-night, first-round playoff matchup is the proverbial immovable object versus the unstoppable force. Something. Must. Give. It's time for the big-boy pants.
OK, so that might be a bit much, but the Heat missed the playoffs last season, so you'll excuse fans if they're a little excited about the sixth-seed Heat (44-38) taking on the third-seed 76ers (52-30) in Game 1 of the playoffs. Miami had an opportunity to play the Kyrie Irving-less, wounded-raccoon Boston Celtics in the first round but instead went and pulled off an overtime win over the first-seed Toronto Raptors in their final regular-season game. It remains to be seen whether that victory was a smart move. Conventional wisdom seems to be that Miami should have lost in order to get Boston.
So let's jump right into this thing and systematically break down each matchup the Heat and Sixers will put on the court, complete with each and every player's true shooting percentage and plus-minus stats. Just kidding. We don't do that here. What we have prepared for you is much more important:
Here's the good and bad news that comes with the Heat playing the 76ers in the first round.
The good news for Heat fans:
- The Heat tied the 76ers in season series this year with two wins apiece. And Joel Embiid will be wearing a Phantom of the Opera mask all series because his face is broken.
- The 76ers' roster has almost zero playoff experience. Dwyane Wade has passed along more playoff experience through DNA alone to his son than the 76ers' entire roster has.
- Hassan Whiteside sort of owns Embiid without a broken face, so imagine the sort of damage Whiteside can do to him while Embiid is wearing a Halloween costume.
- The Heat is a veteran team with much better-quality depth than the 76ers. The end of the 76ers' bench looks like, well, the 76ers' starters before they un-sucked themselves.
Here's the bad news:
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- The 76ers are an ass-kicking machine right now. They've won 16 games in a row heading into the playoffs, most of them while Embiid was resting his broken face.
- The 76ers have home-court advantage, and they went 30-11 at home this season. The Heat is very bad on the road, with an 18-23 record this year.
- The Heat beat the 76ers when they were just a tiny, regular-season wave in the calm Atlantic, but since they last met, the 76ers have grown into a tsunami that blitzes other teams with near-50-point quarters.
- The 76ers have the third-best defense in the NBA and can drop 130 on the Heat if J.J. Reddick and Dario Saric get hot at the same time Ben Simmons is doing Ben Simmons things. Crap could go sideways fast if the Heat come out slow. The 76ers are known to get out to 50-20 leads.
So now that the basics are out of the way, let's get to what Vegas thinks: According to CBS, the 76ers have a 14.3 percent chance of winning the East and a 3.8 percent chance of winning the championship. On the flip side, your Miami Heat has a 1.2 percent chance to win the East and about as good a shot at the title as you have of marrying Kylie Jenner. For Game 1, most Vegas outlets have the Heat as a seven-point underdog.
If right now you put $100 on the Heat to win it all and the team came through, you'd win $50,000. Long story short, nobody gives the Miami Heat a damn chance to do jack in these playoffs, including against the Sixers tomorrow night.
It's still odd to think of the Heat as an underdog in the playoffs, but that's just what Miami is against Philly. We'll see if the culture beats the process.