These five factors will go a long way toward determining who emerges victorious in the first-round clash between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.
Five years after beginning the most blatant tankjob in NBA history, the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves right on schedule. Not only did they seal up the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed with a 16-game winning streak to end the regular season, but they notched their first 50-win campaign since the Allen Iverson-led Sixers of 2000-01.
Their reward? A first-round matchup with the No. 6-seeded Miami Heat, who will be champing at the bit for this showdown.
The bad blood between the two teams dates back to the preseason, when Hassan Whiteside and Joel Embiid engaged in one of the more memorable Twitter battles of the year.
While Embiid’s status for the series remains uncertain as he continues to recover from the orbital fracture he suffered in late March, all of the other key players on both sides should be ready to rock in Saturday’s Game 1. That sets the stage for perhaps the most entertaining first-round series in either conference.
In what projects to be a tight-knit series, the following five keys could wind up swinging it one way or another.
Next: 5. When will Embiid return?