The Miami Heat will begin a first round series with the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday evening.
After missing the playoffs last year, Miami is back for the NBA's second season this time around. As the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, Miami will have to begin the series in Philadelphia. A possibly deciding game seven would also take place in the 76ers' home building.
During the regular season, Miami and Philadelphia faced off four times. Each squad took a pair of games and every contest was close. 18 points separated the two teams in the four games combined. The largest margin of victory came in the fourth and final game, with Miami winning by nine points.
The Heat have some reasons for optimism, but they also have to be cautious. The 76ers won 52 games this season and it wasn't a fluke. With one of the better young rosters in the league, some analysts have picked Philadelphia to go deep into the playoffs.
One factor working in Miami's favor however is playoff experience. The Heat have plenty, while the 76ers do not. Besides having a veteran in Dwyane Wade back in the mix, the Heat will have an experienced head coach in Erik Spoelstra court side. While 76ers head coach Brett Brown has seen playoff action before, this is his first taste of it as the man in charge.
Philadelphia will be without star Joel Embiid for the first game of the series, but he could return in time for the second contest. Embiid and Hassan Whiteside have exchanged words and bodily contact over the past year. In the final game of the season between the teams, Embiid and Whiteside picked up double fouls at one point. Their rivalry figures to remain a big storyline during this entire series.
Miami will likely look to slow the game down and keep Philadelphia from getting into any kind of rhythm. The Heat also arguably have a deeper bench than the 76ers, which could end up being a deciding factor in the series. It could take all seven games to decide the winner of this matchup and every contest figures to be a close one.
Games one and two will take place in Philadelphia and will be broken up by a single day off. Following Monday's game, the teams will head to Miami for a pair of games. Should a fifth game be needed, the series will switch back to Philadelphia. Each game that continues to be needed will alternate cities at that point. The 76ers went 30-11 at home this season, while Miami was 26-15 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Game one will get underway from Philadelphia on Saturday at 8:00 p.m.