- When will Joel Embiid return from injury? Can the 76ers overcome Ben Simmons not being able to shoot? All the questions surrounding Philadelphia and Miami makes the 76ers-Heat series a must-watch.
Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver of the Open Floor podcast examined the first-round NBA playoff matchups and ranked them based on what they're looking forward to most. First stop? Philadelphia.
Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).
Andrew Sharp: Let's talk about the specific matchups here. There are a bunch of different ways we can do this. I thought we could just go through and power rank the series and see what we're looking forward to most and what we're not really feeling. Are you down? I listed all the series for you there, in the email.
Ben Golliver: Oh thanks, I wasn't aware of them. This is actually a really good idea—not exactly the most innovative idea—but I liked it.
Sharp: Sure, we're keeping it simple.
Golliver: Can I open this up with what I'm looking forward to the most? Sixers-Heat.
Sharp: Woah, really?
Golliver: I know, I know. The reason why is Embiid, I've been thirsting for Playoff Embiid since November. I mean that's really where I caught the bug. I can't wait to see him come back and if you're looking for him to have that perfect foil, isn't this basically Hassan Whiteside's role in life? To be the foil for Joel Embiid?
Sharp: And let me add something there. Hassan Whiteside, I mean Heat fans know better than anybody but even as an interloper who watches maybe one Heat game a week, you get different versions of Hassan Whiteside depending on the matchup and how wired in he really is. And one of the reasons I love the Sixer matchup so much is because if he's facing Embiid for six or seven games, he's going to be locked in and we're getting peak Whiteside, which is pretty dangerous. I mean, I don't know. We'll see.
Golliver: I want it for the exact opposite reason because I feel like Whiteside will pull the best out of Embiid. Not like he needed a ton of motivation here but just that head-to-head matchup, all the trash talk, the subplots and all that stuff. This is really setting the stage and increasing the hype factor. Plus there's questions about when in this series is he going to be able to play and it gives us one reason to keep watching. I'm also very curious about a question you raised, and we don't have to go back over it in detail, but Ben Simmons's translation to the playoffs. I mean Miami has bodies to throw on him, they have a bunch of different looks to use on him and they're going to do everything they can to exploit his lack of shooting. How does he adjust? How does he handle sort of when the lights go on? I can't wait to see it. They're the most fascinating team in the league right now because of how good they've been lately and because of the major personalities they've got. So to me it almost didn't matter who Philadelphia played, I would have ranked their series No. 1.
Sharp: I'm with you, I think. I hadn't thought of the Ben Simmons side of it as much, but you're right. As far as tests, the Heat have a number of bodies to throw at him and they're also one of the smartest defensive teams in the league, they're going to be disciplined at screwing with him, forcing him into sort of uncomfortable spots. I don't know. I think the Sixers have looked so so good for the past couple weeks but I think stylistically, they're going to be really really integrating Embiid into the offense and I also just, part of me is banking on a correction of sorts or a regression. Because I don't think they're quite as good as they've looked for the past couple weeks. And I've told you during the Bucks game, I think they had 80 points in the first half and were up by 35 points on Milwaukee and my first thought was like, 'man, I'm not sure who Philly is going to play in the first round but I would bet on whoever they're playing to win that game one just because it all feels a little too good to be true.' And so I'm kind of a little skeptical—at least early on—with these Sixers. They can easily make the Finals too.
Golliver: It's kind of like a joyride in Grand Theft Auto. Everything's going great right? And maybe you get away from the cops with five stars on you or maybe you go to jail. It could go either direction. That's why it's so entertaining and so exciting, we've never seen it before and one other thing to point out about this series is that Miami's offense I believe is the worst offense among the 16 playoff teams and Philly's defense is obviously very highly rated when Embiid is on the court so there is a chance that if this doesn't end up being this Fun Gun Sixers version, Philly could still find a way to win this series through the power of their defense. Just the advantage on that side compared to Miami's offense, which kind of scrounges for everything it can get. I don't know exactly how it's going to play out but that's No. 1 for me.