By Sean Kennedy
Remember back in October, when the Sixers defeated the Heat in their season opener. It was Michael Carter-Williams’ coming-out party as the rookie nearly had a quadruple-double in his first career game. In the process, Philadelphia proved they were the team to beat this season and the defending champs would just have to get used to the new hierarchy in the Eastern Conference. Well, that’s not quite how things played out but the Sixers did actually win that game, and something tells me LeBron James and the rest of the Heat are going to want some degree of revenge for that defeat.
Further fueling the fire for the Heat is the current stretch of poor play they’ve been on. The boys from South Beach are in the middle of a 6-game road trip, and have lost the first 3 games of it against the Knicks, Nets, and Wizards (not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents). It’s the team’s first three-game losing streak since January 2012, and of course, the media, is jumping all over the Heat for it. The talking heads are already starting those tired debates about whether the Heat should just be coasting through the regular season to gear up for the playoffs, and if LeBron is taking plays off defensively. To recap, they are coasting, James is taking plays off, but none of it matters because nothing matters for the Heat until May. Still, something tells me Miami is going to be sick of all that yakking in the media and come out tonight to make a statement. The Sixers might just be in the wrong place at the wrong time for it.
Speaking of things that haven’t happened in years, Greg Oden took part in a regular season game Wednesday for the first time since 2009. The former Buckeye played 8 minutes and looked good getting up and down the court and dunking on his first touch. The Heat are hopeful to have his services to deal with Roy Hibbert in a potential Eastern Conference Finals meeting, but it’ll just be a great story in general if Oden can end up having any sort of career going forward. Oden did some light activities in practice Thursday and looks like he’s going to play again tonight. I certainly hope to have the chance to see him back in action.
As for the Heat overall, it’s true that the defense has slipped a bit this season, but we’ve seen they can turn things up in the playoffs when they need to and they still force the highest % of opponent’s turnovers in the league. Having the turnover-prone Sixers face the Heat is like throwing an injured deer in the middle of a pack of wolves. But even disregarding their defense, Miami’s offense is still the 2nd-best in the league behind Portland, as they feature the best eFG% in the NBA with the big 3 of James, Wade, and Bosh all shooting over 50% from the field. LeBron is shooting 59%(!) this season, so what if he wants to rest a bit defensively in what are basically meaningless games.
The Heat may be without a couple key rotation guys as Mario Chalmers is questionable after missing the last 4 games with an achilles injury, and Chris Andersen sat out last game but did practice yesterday. The Sixers still haven’t disclosed whether Arnett Moultrie will make his season debut or if Lavoy Allen will be back in action. Nevertheless, I don’t think those two will be the x-factors needed to topple a presumably pissed-off Heat squad. Enjoy watching the best player in the world tonight.