The Miami Heat are going to close out this series tonight.
Sure, in theory in one game anything can happen (the NCAA bases a whole basketball tournament around that theory). Even Burnie (the Heat mascot you didn’t know had a name) will admit this Heat team is fully capable of playing a lazy, terrible game where they can lose to anyone.
But the truth of this series is that when the Heat are focused, when they defending, controlling the tempo and attacking, they are the better team and there is nothing the 76ers can do about it.
And the Heat know this — this is in essence Game 1 of the Celtics series. Miami vs. Boston starts Sunday if the Heat win Wednesday, which means three days of just practice, recuperation and preparation. If Philly wins Game 5, then Game 6 is Friday night and the Celtics series still starts Sunday. One-day turnaround — and the Heat’s home court advantage is virtually wiped. Out. Go to a Game 7 with Philly and Miami’s problems will be bigger than the short turnaround.
What the Heat need to do is get out to a fast start — the stat of the series is that the Sixers starting five has outscored the Heat starting five, 131-102. Not making that up. The Heat thrive when Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony get on the floor, but Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are impressing nobody. They need to in Game 5, the Heat need to announce their presence with authority.
Look for the Heat to get a lot of Chris Bosh early then a lot of either Wade or LeBron to follow. Look for them to really crank up the defensive pressure and turn that into a couple fast break opportunities. Look for the Heat to attack the rim and get to the line like they did in the first couple games. Look for them to own the boards.
For Philly, they need to generate some offense early in the clock before the Heat defense gets set, something they have struggled to do much of the series. They will need the injured Andre Iguodala to break out. They will need monster games from Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday to exploit the Heat’s weakness at the point.
In theory all that could happen. In reality, the Heat are the better team and will show it tonight.