We're almost there, NBA fans. It's that time of year.
Every spot in the Eastern Conference is now set in stone while in the West we witness three championship-caliber teams battling for seeding.
The odds are obviously against the young 76ers as they go up against a favorite to win it all first round. But aside from the odds, things already aren't looking good for the Sixers because clutch-shooter Lou Williams still is unsure if he will play.
But this is why we have a bench and players to step up, right? It's part of the game.
The Sixers have a big challenge against the Heat, and I personally think they can give the Heat a run for their money in the playoffs. However, the only way this happens is if the following players step up their game.
Thaddeus Young has been a key player coming off the bench throughout the entire season. Young has proven to be a player who can play both the three and four slots.
Young must perform well when substituting for Elton Brand and especially Andre Iguodala.
Young, who is 6'8'', has a tough task to go up against when it comes to players like LeBron James and Chris Bosh, who is 6'11''. Defending LeBron is certainly no easy task and defending Bosh's post moves and boxing him out will be just as difficult.
However, Young has faired pretty well against the Heat this season and has proven this season that he can step up when the team needs him most.
Jrue Holiday, who is just 20 years old, has done a great job running the point this season and has made a great step forward form last year.
This season Holiday proved that he is a top 10 point guard in the league and one to keep your eyes on over the next few years.
Holiday has a favorable matchup against against Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers. He is the only one on the Sixers with a favorable matchup, which is the biggest reason why he needs to step up. He needs to take advantage of it.
This is Holiday's first playoff appearance of his career. I think he will play well in the series and it should also serve as a learning experience for the young point guard.
After being drafted second overall out of Ohio State, many fans have already put the bust label on him, which I believe is very unfair.
Since Williams will most likely see minimal playing time, or not play at all, Turner will now have a chance to shine, prove that he is capable of being a good NBA player and show that he was worthy of that No. 2 overall pick (and silence the so-called "haters").
Turner has been hot and cold versus the Heat this season. The Sixers played the Heat in their season opener, when Turner scored 16 points, pulled down seven boards and dished out four assists. But the next time both teams faced off, Turner was scoreless.
When the ball is in his hands, he can do a lot with it. But when it's not, he's not nearly as effective (but that's OK because this is what he is learning along the way).
Turner has a great opportunity to step up here and the Sixers need his talent.
Jodie Meeks has established himself as a great shooter this season. After the Sixers clinched the playoffs, even Andre Iguodala stated that Jodie Meeks has "come a long way."
Meeks will face up against future Hall of Famer, Dwyane Wade. There is not much Meeks can do on the defensive side of the game to stop Wade, but he can score right back on him.
Meeks' shot needs to be on this series because he is the only real three-point threat on the court (assuming Williams doesn't play). Meeks will be key at spreading out the Heat's defense and give more room for Brand in the middle.
I don't care what you say about Andre Iguodala. Tell me he isn't a superstar, tell me he can't be a No. 1 on a team to win, tell me he is a plain old bum. You name it.
But Iguodala has been a huge part as to why the Sixers made it this far (aside from Doug Collins of course).
This season Iguodala has been the facilitator of the offense and has done a great job of distributing the ball. No longer is he trying to score 20 points in a game, but now he is striving for 15 along with high numbers in boards and assists.
His role was never to just score, but it was to have the offense run through him and complement every player around him.
As seen against the Orlando Magic two nights ago, the offense just doesn't flow correctly if Iguodala isn't involved. Iggy has been to the playoffs before and needs to take charge of the team.
The Sixers find themselves caught in a corner with little room to find a way out of it. I think they can put up a strong fight against the Heat, but the chance of winning the series is extremely slim.
But having said that, there are plenty of opportunities for players to take advantage of and this will be a great experience for the young squad and this team will be around for a while.
They have made a tremendous turnaround this season and nothing more could have been asked of these guys. No Sixers fan was expecting anything major, let alone a playoff appearance, but this team did just that.
Could the young lineup surprise Sixers fans yet again?
Probably not, but it's nice to think about.