Heat have high praise for 76ers

Miami's LeBron James poses a virtually insurmountable defensive challenge for Jodie Meeks on a switch. Andre Iguodala will likely get most of the defensive duty against King James, with help from Thaddeus Young.
Miami's LeBron James poses a virtually insurmountable defensive challenge for Jodie Meeks on a switch. Andre Iguodala will likely get most of the defensive duty against King James, with help from Thaddeus Young.
Posted: April 16, 2011

MIAMI - The Miami Heat are prohibitive favorites as they begin their playoff series on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena against the 76ers, but one thing that came out clear was how much respect they have for their opponent.

The same theme kept emanating from the Heat players and coach Erik Spoelstra about the Sixers - that they are a young talented unit that is extremely dangerous in the open court.

And as the Heat seem comfortable in the villain role after LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined forces with Dwyane Wade to make Miami the Yankees of the NBA, they are giving their opponent far more respect than the general public is giving.

"They are a very explosive, young team," James said of the Sixers following Friday's workout at their practice facility. "If you allow them to get out on the break and get fastbreak points, they are very dangerous."

James, whose team was 3-0 against the Sixers this year, said limiting the transition points is the key to the series. The Sixers were third in the NBA in fastbreak points, averaging 17.6 per game. In the three games against the Heat, the Sixers had 64 fastbreak points compared with 51 for Miami.

"We have to get back in transition and load up on their guards, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, [Andre] Iguodala as well," James said. "We have to keep them out of transition as much as possible and make them execute in the half court."

The other thing that worries the Heat is the Sixers bench, led by Thaddeus Young and Williams.

"They have speed, athleticism, and they keep coming at you. You can't relax for a second," Spoelstra said. "They have arguably the best bench in the league. They could put their foot on the pedal for three or four minutes, and that can be the difference."

That's not to say that this isn't a supremely confident Heat team, but the players realize that they must do more than simply show up to beat the Sixers.

In the most recent meeting, the Heat overcame a 16-point, second-quarter deficit to defeat the visiting Sixers, 111-99, on March 25.

"If you don't keep your focus they will have a 16-point lead again," Wade said. "They are one of the most athletic teams in the league so if you don't have focus, they will hurt you in transition."

In Wade and James, the Heat have two of the NBA's best players and athletes.

So for the two stars to show that much respect for the Sixers says something.

And they are just echoing what others around the NBA have said about the Sixers.

Meanwhile, for all the flak the Heat took about "buying" a championship and after a 9-8 start in which skeptics questioned whether Wade, James, and Bosh could coexist with one basketball, Miami has rebounded rather nicely.

The Heat went 58-24, the third-best record in the NBA. And now they are just happy to be able to focus on the postseason.

"We're excited, and all we have talked about the last couple of days is the excitement of this game on Saturday," James said. "It's going to be different."

As different as one veteran unit used to the playoffs and an up-and-coming athletic group that nobody is giving much of a chance, but which the favored team won't overlook.


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com

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