Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat's franchise-record winning streak has to end at some point, but man it's been incredible to watch.

On Wednesday night, the Best Player on the Planet, aka LeBron James, delivered a scintillating, game-winning, left-handed layup to clinch the win with 3.2 seconds left against the Orlando Magic.

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The Heat prevailed 98-97 despite a game effort from Florida's other NBA team.

It was Miami's 16th straight win and James has seemingly run away to hide in the league MVP race.

Heading into Miami, the Philadelphia 76ers are still struggling on the road. They dropped to 6-21 away from Philly on Wednesday night when they fell to the Atlanta Hawks 107-96. 

This doesn't appear to be a favorable situation for Doug Collins' crew. The Heat have the NBA's best home record at 27-3, and aside from the 16-game win streak overall, they have won 12 in a row at home as well.

Even with the odds stacked against the Sixers, the pressure of the streak can't be ignored. The Heat were already seeing teams' best efforts every night, but that dynamic is even more magnified now.

Every team wants to be the one that breaks up the run. Philly will be trying to snap more than one streak in this one, though.

The Sixers fell 114-90 to the Heat in their previous matchup on Feb. 23, and that was the Heat's 12th straight win over the Sixers overall.

Can they get it done this time?

Let's take a closer look at Friday night's clash.

 

When: Friday, March 8 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla.

TV: NBA League Pass and Fox Sports sun in Miami and Comcast Sports Network in Philadelphia

Live Stream: NBA League Pass (Pay Service)

 

Injury Report

 (per CBS Sports)

76ers

UPDATED
PLAYER
POS
INJURY
EXPECTED RETURN
03/01/13
Andrew Bynum
C
Knee
Out until at least mid-March
03/06/13
Nick Young
SG
Ankle
Questionable for March 8 at Miami
02/08/13
Jason Richardson
SG
Knee
Out for season

Heat

There are no reported injuries for the Heat, even though James had his knee checked out prior to leading the team to victory over the Magic, per ESPN.

Though he seems to be OK, this is certainly a situation worth monitoring.

 

Can the Sixers Find Enough Offense to Win

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

All year long, the Sixers' biggest weakness has been their lack of scoring. Their 92.2 points per game is the fourth-lowest in the league. Were it not for a respectable defense that allows only 96 points per game, Philly's record would be even more modest than its current 23-37 mark.

If they are going to have a shot at winning this game, someone is going to have to step up with a big game offensively.

With Young possibly out with an ankle injury, that eliminates one candidate.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jrue Holiday has been perhaps the only consistent offensive performer all year. He's scoring 19 per game and dishing out 8.6 assists, but he'll need someone else to help him carry the load.

If Evan Turner is aggressive and knocks down shots, it will improve the Sixers' chances. He's coming off a terrible performance against the Hawks on Wednesday night.

He scored just two points in 22 minutes on 1-of-7 shooting from the field. Needless to say, the Sixers need more from him to win this game.

 

Key Matchup - LeBron James vs. Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Who will guard James?

In previous seasons, the Sixers had Andre Iguodala, who could at least attempt to match up with James athletically. But with Iggy moved to Denver, James will likely be checked by Thaddeus Young and/or Turner for stretches.

In their Feb. 23 meeting, LeBron didn't put up astronomical scoring numbers, but he did record a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

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He was content to let Dwyane Wade explode for 33 points in the blowout victory.

Who knows whether James, Wade or Chris Bosh will have big nights on Friday—it is certainly feasible that all three could light it up. 

Who has the best shot at containing LeBron?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Whomever draws the assignment of checking James will have to do what everyone else in the league does against him: Try to force him to take jump shots and pray that he's not making them.

On the other end, Young and/or Turner need to be aggressive to force James to work on defense. It will be a tough task for them on both ends of the floor.

 

Prediction

The Sixers' ability to lock down on defense makes them a candidate to end the Heat's streak. But the recent performance against Miami, the potential absence of Young and their ineptitude on the road makes this assignment too tough.

The Heat will run the streak to 17 straight with a 100-89 victory.

 

Follow Brian Mazique and Franchiseplay on YouTube and Twitter for reactions, analysis and news from the world of sports and sports video games

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