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Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers Full Comparison: Can James Harden Succeed Without Joel Embiid?

Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers Full Comparison: Can James Harden Succeed Without Joel Embiid?

It took 6 games, but the Philadelphia 76ers are through to the next round of the playoffs to engage in a showdown with the Miami Heat. Miami made relatively quick work of the Atlanta Hawks, taking them out in 5 games while holding All-Star Trae Young to 15.4 PPG on 31.9% from the field and 18.4% from three.

Thanks to their stifling defense and presence of talented All-Star-caliber players including Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Miami is a difficult team to play against. But even if the Heat are a deep team, they cannot overlook the 76ers. Philly have two superstars on the roster and an all-time great coach, or do they? Joel Embiid has been ruled out of the series at this point with no official timetable for his return.

But the 76ers cannot afford to sit back and pray for Joel to return. They need to make use of their season because they have sacrificed their future in Ben Simmons for a win-now player in James Harden in the blockbuster trade that shook the NBA world before the deadline. So, The Beard needs to show up and be at his MVP-level best for his squad to have a chance at making this a long series because there could be hope that superstar Joel Embiid returns to the court. In a series that has a ton of exciting narratives to follow, here is how the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers compare.


Starting Lineups

Heat vs. Sixers 2022 NBA playoffs

Heat Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, Bam Adebayo

76ers Starting Lineup: Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Paul Reed

Miami’s starting lineup is expected to be complete with the return of Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler, who are both seemingly resting themselves. Meanwhile, Victor Oladipo has looked great in his return to the postseason and almost has to start because of his ability to attack the rim and also defend at an elite level. PJ Tucker will continue to be a stalwart at the power forward spot and has one of the best corner three-point shots in the league. Finally, Bam Adebayo is an All-Star center who will punish the 76ers without Embiid.

Philadelphia’s lineup looks completely different without the presence of MVP candidate Joel Embiid. The big man has carried the 76ers at times and has greatly improved his game in almost every area this year. Without Joel, it is expected that Paul Reed will come in because he can play small-ball basketball and not give up much. Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, and Tobias Harris will all be responsible for carrying the offense and The Beard especially must take over games. Finally, Matisse Thybulle will be tasked with defending and hustling for loose balls in his return to NBA action.

As great as Philly look with Embiid, they look empty without him. With Miami’s stars expected to play at nearly full health, the edge has to go to the Heat.

Advantage: Miami Heat


Bench

Heat vs. Sixers 2022 NBA playoffs

Heat Playoff Bench Rotation: Tyler Herro, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Caleb Martin, Dewayne Dedmon

76ers Playoff Bench Rotation: Shake Milton, Georges Niang, Furkan Korkmaz, Danny Green, Isaiah Joe, Jaden Springer

The Miami Heat bench is stacked with offensive talent, as there are 4 players that can come in and make shots from deep almost instantly. Tyler Herro is the man who receives the bulk of the headlines, and he certainly deserves it. He ran away with 6th Man of the Year and is an All-Star talent that can carry the offense with confidence. Max Strus, Duncan Robinson, and Caleb Martin are all floor-spacers who compete on defense as well. Finally, Dewayne Dedmon is a hustle big who has proved his worth on this Miami squad.

The 76ers bench is much less talented, as they try to field shooters that are generally streaky. Shake Milton can score, but he is not always consistent. Niang and Korkmaz can get hot from three, but neither are strong defenders and pale in comparison to Miami’s role players. Danny Green is a perfect backup (or replacement) for Thybulle because he can make threes, but he is also streaky. Finally, with Paul Reed most likely starting, they need to hope Joe or Springer can make an impact.

Overall, the 76ers are hurt without Embiid and will struggle once Miami’s bench comes in and they are forced to sub out either Maxey or Harden at times throughout the series.

Advantage: Miami Heat


Coaching

heat sixers coaches

Erik Spoelstra deserves a ton of credit for being one of the best coaches in the league for over a decade. He is not only a tremendous man-manager and basketball mind, but he knows what he wants from his players and makes sure it is followed. Spoelstra has plenty of experience dealing with high-profile stars including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler, and also has playoff experience. Of course, he is backed by an elite squad that were good enough to win the first seed in the East and made the Finals two years ago.

Doc Rivers is getting flak in recent years for blowing multiple 3-1 leads despite having strong teams, but he is an all-time great coach considering how he manages to keep his roster close and competitive. There aren’t many more popular coaches among players than Rivers, because his voice and basketball mind are to be respected. But Rivers has not had the smoothest of seasons in recent years while Spoelstra has earned a tremendous amount of respect for standing up to stars and even making the Finals in 2020. Rivers is a great coach, but the edge goes to Spoelstra because of his recent successes with Miami.

Advantage: Miami Heat


Heat Are Favorites To Reach The Finals

The Jimmy Butler bust-up on the sidelines with head coach Erik Spoelstra was a thing of the past because Miami has bounced back and competed at a high level. They took care of Atlanta in an excellent way, completely shutting down one of the most unstoppable players in the league in Trae Young.

Not to mention, the Heat finished 1st in the Eastern Conference and have an elite roster built around star players and heavy-hitting role players who can defend and shoot. Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro are leading the charge as the stars of the team while guys like PJ Tucker, Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, and the returned Victor Oladipo bolster the team on both ends.

The Heat have shown they can lock down Trae Young (28.4 PPG, 9.7 APG during the regular season) who is 23 years of age so imagine what they will do to a slower James Harden. They might not have to worry about Joel Embiid either, because the big man could be out for some time. With the best record in the East and plenty of confidence, Miami are the legitimate favorites to reach the Finals.


Sixers Are Banged Up, And James Harden Is Unconvincing

The news is out that Joel Embiid will be out after suffering an eye injury and a concussion. That is an absolutely massive blow to the 76ers title hopes because that means the best player on the floor will be unavailable for at least opening night. That also means the bulk of the pressure will be on the shoulders of James Harden, a player who has been unconvincing up until this point.

The Beard is not the same player he used to be, and we might have to accept that he is already past his prime at 32 years of age. So far this postseason, the former MVP is averaging his lowest PPG average since his third season in the league at 19.0 PPG. James is also shooting 40.5% from the floor and attempting only 13 shots per game.

Without Embiid on the floor at full health and James Harden playing passive, Philadelphia are in big trouble against a Miami Heat squad that will fight tooth and claw for every possession. In fact, the 76ers might be in trouble going forward because Embiid will never be healthy and Harden will only slow down more. Expect Miami to do to James Harden what they did to Trae Young, force him in uncomfortable positions and make him an inefficient shell of himself.


Which Team Will Come Out On Top?

Miami is a better team on almost every facet of the game at this moment in time, especially without Joel Embiid on the floor. The 76ers superstar makes a massive impact on the game, and when he is not there, the pressure is on James Harden to carry a heavy offensive burden. Giving the Heat a wounded dog only means they will smell blood and will force Harden to take tough shots, pass up opportunities, and struggle to get a hold of the game. As a result, the Heat have a major advantage.

Expect Miami to close out the 76ers in 5 games. They defend at an elite level, have more dogs on the squad, and can flat-out shoot the three better than Philly can. If Joel Embiid returns by Game 2 or 3, the 76ers might have a shot at pushing it to 6 games although a sweep might be more likely. Overall, Miami is better in almost every facet of the game and they will most likely prove it in a Gentleman’s sweep.

Prediction: The Miami Heat win 4-1 against the Philadelphia 76ers

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