The Philadelphia 76ers take on the top-seeded Miami Heat in the second round of the 2022 NBA playoffs. The Sixers looked terrific early on in the first round, going up 3-0 on the Toronto Raptors. Their fortunes began to change after game three, however. Philly was able to finish off Toronto in six games, but it was announced after game three that Joel Embiid is dealing with a thumb injury that will require surgery in the offseason. On top of that, Embiid suffered a concussion in game six that will sideline him for the first two games of this series. Miami looked good in the first round, taking care of the Atlanta Hawks in five games. While not as concerning as Philly’s, Miami is dealing with injuries as well. Kyle Lowry has been ruled out of game one with a hamstring injury.
|Heat in 7 (+340)||76ers in 7 (+800)|
|Heat in 6 (+450)||76ers in 6 (+750)|
|Heat in 5 (+260)||76ers in 5 (+2500)|
|Heat in 4 (+400)||76ers in 4 (+5000)|
Obviously, the Sixers’ chances in this series are very much contingent on Joel Embiid’s health. He is a finalist for the league’s MVP award and we all know he is one of the top few players in basketball when healthy. With their superstar not out there, it is going to be difficult for Philly to steal either of the first two games in Miami. The Sixers are going to need James Harden to pick up his scoring load. Harden averaged only 19.0 points per game on just 41.1% shooting in round one. On the other hand, Tyrese Maxey was magnificent in the Toronto series, averaging over 21 points per game on 50% shooting. Philly’s young star scored 38 points in game one. If the Sixers can get a similar performance from Maxey in game one or two of this series it would be huge. Regardless, he will need to have another big series if Philly is going to compete against Miami. Aside from Embiid, Harden, and Maxey, Tobias Harris is the only other Sixer to average double-figure points per game in either the regular season or the Toronto series.
The 76ers, on the defensive end, are nothing to write home about. Philly ranked 12th in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions, 110.8) in the regular season. Aside from Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle (who played just 14.3 minutes per game in the first round), no other 76er had a positive DBPM (defensive box plus-minus) in 2021-22. The Sixers could have an incredibly tough time defensively without Embiid in games one and two, especially against a Miami team that loves to attack the rim and led the league in three-point shooting percentage this season (37.7%).
Jimmy Butler was far and away the best player on the court against the Hawks. The six-time all-star averaged 30.5 points, over five assists, and nearly eight rebounds and three steals in round one. He also shot 54.3% from the field and nearly 45% from three. Butler hit seven threes in the series. He had struggled mightily from downtown until the very end of the regular season, so the Heat have to be thrilled that Butler was knocking them down against Atlanta. Butler is also an excellent defender. He finished top ten in the league this season in DBPM (1.9). Butler ranked in the league’s top 15 in win shares (9.2) and VORP (value over replacement player, 4.0) as well.
Miami is elite defensively and figures to match up well with Philadelphia. The Heat finished top five in the league in the regular season in defensive efficiency (109.1), and are currently second in the league in defensive efficiency in these playoffs (102.4). Butler will likely match up on either James Harden or Tyrese Maxey. Miami has one of the best defenders in basketball in Bam Adebayo. Adebayo is top six in the NBA in both defensive win shares (0.4) and DBPM (2.3) in this postseason. If I had to choose any player in the NBA for my team to guard Joel Embiid, I might choose Adebayo. In addition to Butler and Bam, the Heat have seven other players who rank inside the league’s top 55 in defensive win shares this postseason.
While Butler probably continues to carry the load offensively, Miami still has plenty of other guys who can put the ball in the bucket. Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo averaged 20.7 and 19.1 points per game, respectively, in the regular season. It is unclear when/if Kyle Lowry plans to return in this series, but if he is out there, he provides another shot-creator and strong defender for Miami. Victor Oladipo and Max Strus averaged 14.5 and 14.0 points per game respectively in the Atlanta series. Oladipo started game five and scored 23 points. He figures to play a significant role in this series, especially with Lowry out for at least game one.
Prediction and Best Bet
In all likelihood, Philadelphia is going to head home down 2-0 with Embiid out. While Embiid has been phenomenal all season, I think a 2-0 deficit is too much for this Sixers team to overcome in this series. Miami is way deeper and way better defensively. The Heat have an answer on defense for each of Philly’s stars. Miami’s roster is loaded with excellent defenders. Jimmy Butler has played as well as anyone in the league in these playoffs. Don’t forget that the Heat have the best coach in the NBA in Erik Spoelstra as well. I think Miami wins this series and I would be surprised if it goes more than five or six games.
Best Bet: Heat -1.5 games (-150 at DraftKings)
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