Unless the Sixers can get more from just about everyone on the roster, Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the top-seeded Heat, Wednesday night in Miami (7:30pm Eastern; 12:30am UK) will look an awful lot like Game 1 – and put them on verge of a quick exit.
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Philadelphia 76ers team news
There’s no two ways about it: the Sixers are in serious trouble.
With superstar talisman big man Joel Embiid – by far Philly’s best player at each end of the floor – who is sidelined with a right orbital fracture until at least Game 3 in Philly (and very possibly beyond), head coach Doc Rivers must find a way for his team to compete against the top-seeded Heat.
On the bright side, in a similar scenario in Game 1, the Sixers got an excellent showing from Tobias Harris, who scored 27 points on just 18 shots. Unfortunately, Harris was the only member of the who picked up the slack in Embiid’s absence. Perimeter scores James Harden and Tyrese Maxey could only muster a combined 35 points (on 11-of-28 shooting overall, and 3-of-13 ton 3-pointers), with seven assists, but also seven turnovers.
In theory, it’s reasonable to expect that each will rebound with a stronger performance in Game 2. However, the quality and tenacity of Miami’s defense places a cap on just how prolifically each is able to bounce back. Exacerbating these concerns is the fact that Harris will be him a larger focal point defensively for Miami. For as fantastically as he played in Game 1, he’s not a player who produces that type of performance on a nightly basis, even under the best of circumstances.
Even if this ‘big three’ produces at a solid level in Game 3, the Sixers are also going to need more – a lot more – from their role players, who turned in a gruesome performance in Game 1. Outside of Harris, Harden and Maxey, no Sixer reached double figures – in fact, only one other player scored more than five points: Furkan Korkmaz, who had nine. Underlining (and italicizing, in bold font) the magnitude of Embiid’s absence was his replacement at center, veteran (a generous classification) DeAndre Jordan, who managed just four points in 17 minutes on the floor – during which the Sixers were outscored by 22 points!
As we said before Game 1, this matchup always going to be an uphill battle for Philly. Without Embiid, it’s hard to fathom where to even look for answers.
76ers predicted starting lineup: Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, Danny Green, Tobias Harris, DeAndre Jordan
Notable injuries: Joel Embiid (orbital fracture, thumb ligament; out)
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Miami Heat team news
From the Heat’s perspective, there’s really only so much to say.
Yes, Kyle Lowry is still struggling with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to play in Game 2. And yes, Jimmy Butler is still working his way through the knee injury that bothered him in the opening round against Atlanta. HOWEVER…
On the shoulders of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and a seemingly endless and varied supporting cast, the Heat took care of business in Game 1 (a minor second half hiccup aside) just as they (and we) would have expected.
With a better sense of what the Sixers are (and are not) working with, one would expect the Heat to even further focus our defensive effort. As we mentioned above, it’s unlikely that Tobias Harris is given the latitude to produce as he did in Game 1. And, based on what we’ve seen from Harden and Maxey for all but a couple of games against Toronto in the opening round, neither is currently equipped to swing a game against these Heat.
Of course, we must allow for the possibility that Harris is once again dialed-in, and that Maxey recaptures in the magic of his playoff debut, and that Harding summons up a vintage performance.. but it’s certainly not something that you’d want to bet on.
Heat predicted starting lineup: Victor Oladipo, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo
Notable injuries: Kyle Lowry (hamstring; questionable); Jimmy Butler (knee; expected to play)