Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers Look To Lock Up First Place In Heat Matchup

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With three games to play the Sixers will look to lock up the top spot in the East against the Heat in their final road game of the year.

With three games left on the schedule, the Sixers will face the Miami Heat in their final away game of the regular season. Despite a disappointing loss to the Pacers, the Sixers remain in the driver’s seat for finishing first in the East and are considered to have a 99% chance of finishing at the top spot.

As it stands, the Sixers hold a 1.5 game lead over the Nets for the first seed. It will take just one more victory from the Sixers to punch their ticket for first-place and tonight is as good of a night as any for this to occur. The Sixers will have back-to-back games against the Orlando Magic following tonight’s game, but for the time being their focus will be on the Miami Heat.

Miami Heat (38-31)

The Miami Heat currently sit tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with the New York Knicks. Due to a tiebreaker they currently hold the fifth seed but are fighting hard to keep this spot and the favorable playoff matchup that comes with it. The Heat are riding a three-game win streak coming into this matchup and are 7-3 in their last ten games.

They are led by former Sixer, Jimmy Butler, who is averaging 21.5 points, 7.2 assists, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game on the season. Bam Adebayo has also found his stride this year and is averaging a career-high 18.9 points per game. The Heat often run their offense through sharpshooters Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro, as the two average a combined 14.1 three-point attempts per game. Robinson in particular moves off the ball extremely well and is in constant search of setting up his shot. Both players are capable of catching fire and ones that must be noted on the scouting report.

Injuries

  • Victor Oladipo- OUT (Quad)
  • Jimmy Butler- Questionable (Eye)

News of Victor Oladipo’s injury broke last night as the 29-year-old underwent season-ending surgery on his right quadriceps tendon. Oladipo has played just 20 games with the Heat and has averaged 21.2 points, 5 assists, and 4.8 rebounds during this time. The 8-year vet will be a free agent this offseason and is in search of a major deal so it will be interesting to see how the injury affects his potential payday. Jimmy Butler was poked in the eye in the Heat’s previous game and is listed as questionable for tonight’s matchup.

Sixers (47-22)

This will be the third matchup between the Heat and Sixers this year with the Sixers winning both games so far this season. These matchups occurred two-days apart and the first was during the time when the Sixers had several players in the health and safety protocols for COVID exposure. It took a 45 point performance from Joel Embiid and 9 made three’s from Danny Green in order for the Sixers to secure the overtime victory in the first matchup. The Sixers were able to get their regular starting lineup and were able to cruise to a 125-108 victory the second time the teams faced off.

Injuries

  • Joel Embiid- Questionable (Non-Covid Illness)
  • Matisse Thybulle- Questionable (left hand swelling)
  • Furkan Korkmaz- Probable (right ankle sprain)
  • Shake Milton- Probable (right knee soreness)

Joel Embiid headlines the injury report as he missed the Pacers matchup due to illness. It is worth noting that Embiid is expected to play in two of the three remaining games in order to reach the qualifications for MVP. This would ensure he plays 70% of the Sixers games which would make him eligible for the award. Embiid did not travel with the Sixers to Indiana and it is not clear if he took a separate flight to Miami to meet up with the team. It is very possible the Sixers will choose to rest Embiid again tonight and then bring him back for the final two home games against the Magic.

Matisse Thybulle rolled up on his hand in the Pacers matchup but does not appear to have any significant damage to it. Thybulle has established himself as an extremely important part of this Sixers team so the priority must be to make sure he is healthy heading into the postseason. If he is able to play tonight it will be a very good sign that his wrist is fine. Shake Milton was a late scratch in the previous game but is expected to rejoin the team tonight. Furkan Korkmaz has missed the previous four games due to a sprained ankle but is expected to return tonight. The second unit has missed his shooting ability in his absence and it will be good to see Furk available today.

Outlook for Sixers:

The Sixers are listed as 1 point favorites coming into the game with the status of Joel Embiid likely to move that line once more information is available. This is an important game for Miami as they continue to fight for seeding, so expect their best effort tonight. The Sixers will look to officially solidify their top spot in the East with a victory tonight and there certainly would be a rewarding feeling to doing this against Jimmy Butler and the Heat.

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Lead Sixers Writer for Philly Sports Network and Co-host of the Pick Swap Podcast. Trust the Process

Twitter: @Sean_Barnard1 and @PickSwapPod

Email: sean.barnard17@gmail.com

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