By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are some stone cold facts that can’t so easily be pushed aside as the NBA playoffs begin this Saturday when the 76ers host the Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center. For one, the Sixers are the hottest team in the NBA, winners of a franchise-record 16-straight games, and they seem to be coming together right now. Secondly, it’s a predominantly young team with fresh legs that are playing with a bit of an attitude.

Much will depend on the progress of Joel Embiid’s return from an orbital bone fracture in his left eye—but who’s to say that the Sixers bypass all of the timetables and win the NBA championship this year?

It’s there for them.

Since the Sixers were 25-25 on Feb. 3, 2018, they’ve gone 27-5. They’re holding opponents to an NBA-low .434% field-goal percentage per game, and are averaging 27.1 assists a game—second only to the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

There are no world-beaters in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers were 1-3 against No. 1-seed Toronto, beating the Raptors in their last meeting in January. They’re 1-3 versus Boston and 2-2 against LeBron James and Cleveland. Though again, this is a far different, far more confident Sixers’ team than what those teams faced early this season.

The Sixers youth will be a strength, and it’s that inexperience of playing at a higher level that is also a weakness. There are two teams that could pose threats, Indiana in the East and the Houston Rockets, unseating the defending champ Warriors, in the West.

The Sixers were 2-2 against the Pacers during the regular season and they’re the last team that the Sixers lost to, while the Sixers were 1-1 against Houston.

Quick Facts

  • No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) vs. No. 6 Miami Heat (44-38)
  • Game 1 — Heat at 76ers, Saturday, April 14 at 8 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Game 2 — Heat at 76ers, Monday, April 16 at 8 p.m. (TNT)
  • Game 3 — 76ers at Heat, Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. (TNT)
  • Game 4 — 76ers at Heat, Saturday, April 21 at 2:30 p.m. (TNT)
  • Game 5 (if necessary) — Heat at 76ers, Tuesday, April 24 (TBD)
  • Game 6 (if necessary) — 76ers at Heat, Thursday, April 26 (TBD)
  • Game 7 (if necessary) — Heat at 76ers, Saturday, April 28 (TNT)
  • Season series: Tied 2-2

Probable starters

Philadelphia 76ers

  • G Ben Simmons, 15.8 ppg, 8.2 apg
  • G JJ Redick, 17.1 ppg, 3.0 apg
  • F Dario Saric, 14.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg
  • F Robert Covington, 12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg
  • C Joel Embiid, 22.9 ppg, 11 rpg

Miami Heat

  • G Goran Dragic, 17.3 ppg, 4.8 apg
  • G Tyler Johnson, 11.7 ppg, 2.4 apg
  • F Josh Richardson, 12.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg
  • F James Johnson, 10.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg
  • C Hassan Whiteside, 14.0 ppg, 11.4 rpg

 

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