Heat, 76ers having similar seasons that feel very different, and a first-round playoff series could be looming

The Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers are having identical seasons that feel very distinct. The Sixers feel like the disappointment. The Heat, nevertheless not fairly as a great deal lately, have been the proverbial pleasant surprise. But it is all extra up to in essence the exact same thing. Moving into perform on Monday, Miami (38-22) is No. four in the East while Philly (37-24) is No. 5. Just two game titles individual them in the decline column.

With the Bucks (52-eight), Raptors (42-18) and Celtics (forty one-18) rather agency in the leading 3 places, and the Magic (27-33) and Nets (26-33) way down the totem pole in the Nos. 7 and eight places, the only team that feels like it could interfere with a Sixers-Heat 1st-spherical playoff matchup is the No. 6 Indiana Pacers, who are tied with the Sixers in the decline column immediately after Philly’s decline at the Clippers on Sunday. 

The Pacers (36-24) have the tenth-toughest remaining program in the league, while the Sixers have the fourth-most straightforward, which is in element why SportsLine is projecting Indiana to continue to be at No. 6 with the Heat and Sixers ending four-5 and conference up in the 1st spherical, with the Heat securing property-court benefit. 

Definitely a whole lot could alter between now and mid-April. Joel Embiid (sprained shoulder) and Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in again) are currently sidelined for the Sixers, and on Sunday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described Simmons’ harm as murky. Simmons was originally specified a two-7 days timetable for reevaluation. If he’s out for a longer time than that, the Sixers could be in a whole lot of trouble. 

Or, conversely, Philly could get on a very little gain streak with a somewhat comfortable program in the thirty day period of March. If that occurs, just you wait around for all the tales about how the Sixers are superior without Simmons. With the Sixers, the glass constantly appears to be to be 50 % vacant. Relatively than the particular person dominance of Simmons and Embiid being the aim of discussion, it is constantly about how they contradict one another, how they are unable to arrive at their ceilings with each other, and from there the Philly criticism flows downhill. 

Al Horford will not in shape. Tobias Harris is overpaid. Josh Richardson is out of his depth as a primary 50 %-court initiator. The Sixers are unable to collectively room the flooring. Are unable to shoot. Are unable to deliver constant 50 %-court offense, specially late in game titles. And they positive as heck are unable to gain on the road. 

Moving into Monday, the Sixers are an abysmal nine-22 on the road, which is the exact same mark as the Pistons and the Knicks. We could chat about how they’re a league-very best 28-2 at property, but we do not. The Sixers have become a punching bag. I’m guilty of it myself. It can be mainly because the expectations bordering them coming into the year were championship-competition higher, and expectations are the root of annoyance. 

With the Heat, there were no expectations of any significance, so their glass has been 50 % complete all year. They, far too, battle on the road getting into Monday, the Heat are just thirteen-18 absent from American Airways Arena. Like the Sixers, they dominate at property, wherever their 25-four history is the third-very best mark in the league. All year Jimmy Butler has been talked about as a fringe MVP candidate, but if you glimpse closely he’s essentially having the worst shooting year of his career and he’s struggled in the clutch, even nevertheless his “Jimmy Buckets” popularity implies he’s a dude you can rely on in tense instances. 

If you toss out Butler’s rookie year in which he only played 8 minutes a sport, this is the worst 3-stage shooting year of his career by an eye-popping margin by Sunday, he’s shooting just 25 per cent from 3, for each Cleansing the Glass. That gets even worse in clutch cases, in which Butler is shooting fifteen.eight per cent from 3 and just 30 per cent total from the discipline. All told, Butler’s 47.7 powerful discipline-aim percentage is his worst since 2013-fourteen and the next-worst mark of his career excluding his rookie year. for each CTG. 

Earlier this year, I asked Heat mentor Erik Spoelstra about Butler’s shooting struggles, and he said two factors. First, he famous Butler’s elevated no cost-toss attempts as an evident counter to his shooting percentages, and that nevertheless retains accurate by Sunday, Butler is getting to the line a career-higher nine.2 instances for each sport and he’s shooting just underneath 84 per cent. In clutch cases — outlined as the very last 5 minutes of a sport inside of 5 points — Butler has shot 51 overall no cost throws, which is the highest amount in the league, for each NBA.com. 

Spoelstra’s next rationale for Butler’s shooting struggles was that, at the time, it was nevertheless early in the year. Properly, it is not early any more. And the stage is this: Butler is having a excellent year, no query, but if he were having a shooting year like this in Philadelphia, you will find also no query it would be talked about a whole lot much more — What do you know, another Sixer who are unable to shoot. Because in Philadelphia, all over again, the glass is 50 % vacant. 

Down in Miami, Butler is in essence a hero. As is Bam Adebayo, a 1st-time All-Star. Adebayo, in a lot of facets, is a lesser version of Ben Simmons — an elite, versatile defender who can guide breaks and initiate offense as a actually excellent passer at 6-foot-nine. No one cares that he are unable to shoot exterior the paint. With Simmons, that is the only thing any person appears to be to care about. Once more, I’m guilty of this, far too. 

And so right here we are, with two East groups who are excellent at property and horrible on the road and share a lot of of the exact same qualities perceived by two completely distinct lenses, and you will find a excellent likelihood they’re on a 1st-spherical collision program. If that collection does come about, the Sixers will be actively playing for the opportunity to carry on as they currently exist. Brett Brown will be coaching for his career. Simmons and Embiid will be trying to show that one of them will not have to go. Harris will be trying to validate his contract. We’re already listening to rumbles that the Sixers could glimpse to trade Horford in the offseason. 

With the Heat, it is all gravy. They could get rid of in the 1st spherical and they will nevertheless be a young team with an emerging star in Adebayo, a solidified star in Butler and almost nothing but cap room and optimism in front of them. They will be, ironically, in the exact same position the Sixers were in during the 2017-18 playoffs, when they rolled by the Heat in the 1st spherical and appeared like a surefire potential championship contender. The sunlight sets on that variety of hope speedily in the NBA. For the Heat, it is nevertheless content hour. For now.