Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

3 Keys to the Game: Sixers-Heat Preview

Here’s my thoughts on the three main keys to tonight’s Sixers-Heat tilt in Miami:

1) Spencer Hawes

Spencer Hawes has yet to play in a game against the Heat for the Sixers this season, and they’ve missed his presence down low. They’ve played their best vs. Miami when they have a low post presence performing well, like Nikola Vucevic did in one of the earlier matchups Sean mentioned yesterday. Hawes needs to have a good game on both ends of the floor to allow the Sixers to win. On offense, he needs to establish himself as a consistent scoring threat so the Sixers aren’t forced to settle for contested jumpers. With the Heat’s outstanding perimeter defense, the Sixers need to be able to get the ball inside. On defense, the Sixers have struggled with defending Chris Bosh down low for much of their earlier meetings. The Sixers have good perimeter defenders, particularly Andre Iguodala (despite his earlier struggles against LeBron James), but they struggle against opposing big men. Hawes will need to play good, physical defense against Chris Bosh down low in an effort to slow the Heat offense.

2) Jrue Holiday

Look at the starting lineups for each team:

Miami: Chalmers-Battier (in for Dwyane Wade)-James-Bosh-Anthony

Philadelphia: Holiday-Turner-Iguodala-Brand-Hawes

The Heat have an extreme advantage at SF and PF. I already highlighted why Spencer Hawes has to step up, but Jrue Holiday needs to have a good game against Mario Chalmers. The Sixers need to exploit the matchups that work to their favor to have any shot of beating the Heat tonight. Holiday is a much better player than Mario Chalmers, but if he doesn’t play like it the Sixers have no shot of winning the game. In the last meeting, Jrue shot 3-16 from the field on mostly jump shots. That simply will not do tonight. He needs to attack the rim and draw defenders to him so he can either finish the play or find an open teammate. Settling for jumpers isn’t an option for him tonight. He needs to facilitate the Sixers offense against a stingy defense and do a good job of both scoring and passing. He also needs to vastly outplay Mario Chalmers along with Spencer Hawes doing the same to Joel Anthony if the Sixers to win the game.

3) The Night Shift

The bench unit is going to be another key to the game as well. When a team is constructed with 3 stars like the Heat, there isn’t much money to go around for the rest of the team. So while Norris Cole, Mike Miller, and Udonis Haslem are nice players, the Sixers’ bench is much better than the Heat’s. When the 2nd unit gets into the game, it must play well because it’s very likely that the Heat starters will have opened up a sizeable lead on the Sixers’ first unit. The key to the bench matchup will be the low post (again). The Heat employ Eddy Curry, Ronny Turiaf and Juwan Howard as backup big men. Thaddeus Young and Nik Vucevic should be able to exploit their lack of basketball-playing ability down low. It doesn’t stop down low, though. The entire bench needs to step up and continue to play well enough to close deficits or even build leads against other teams’ bench units.

This is a big game for the Sixers. The Celtics embarrassed the Heat on national TV Sunday, and hold a 1 game lead over the Sixers for the Atlantic Division lead. The Sixers will be looking to keep pace with the Celtics, while the Heat will be looking to rebound and get back on track. My prediction? The Heat do just that and take this game, 92-75. Hopefully I’m wrong, enjoy the game everyone.

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Tags: 3 Things Andre Iguodala Chris Bosh Dwyane Wade Eddy Curry Jrue Holiday Juwan Howard LeBron James Mario Chalmers Miami Heat Mike Miller Nikola Vucevic Norris Cole Ronny Turiaf Spencer Hawes Thaddeus Young Udonis Haslem

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