I will try to be as unbiased as possible. With Joel Embiid, the 76ers were undoubtedly a credible threat. Without, not as much. If James Harden can return to form, and keep the series close before a possible Embiid return then their chances improve greatly. The depth of the Heat has been the highlight of their season. The ability to plug in undrafted guys like Max Strus and Gabe Vincent to give them meaningful minutes in the regular season. Kyle Lowry went down in the first round, not one player blinked. Next man up isn’t just a moniker in Miami. The Lowry injury hasn’t hurt them yet. Jimmy Butler went down before a close out game five. Again, not one player blinked. Enter Victor Oladipo, who showed he’s still got plenty left in the tank and a whole lot to prove. The Heat’s defense can make this series extremely tough for Philly. The offense of Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris will be the barometer of whether this series goes five, or seven. Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro both must find themselves in this series, or their title aspirations will come up midely short.
Heat in 6.
X-Factor: Joel Embiid’s Health
This Heat-Sixers series would be a whole lot more interesting if Embiid’s injury didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Even if he wasn’t suffering through a broken face, his thumb is going to be a factor. Embiid was also pretty exhausted through games 4,5 and 6 of their first round series against the Raptors so I do question his ability to be as effective, given all those factors. On top of that, the Heat are a highly impressive defensive group, even more impressive than the Raptors. As long as Miami’s half-court offense can generate looks and punish mismatches, it’s going to be a straight forward series.
Heat in 5 or 6.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry’s Health
Pre-Embiid injury I was already leaning towards Heat in 7. I had no doubt Embiid would be the best player on the court but had no faith in Harden being a capable Robin to his Batman. With Embiid’s status uncertain, it’s now up to Harden to solve a suffocating Miami defense. This version of the Sixers was built around Embiid and doesn’t fit with Harden’s strengths. They don’t have about shooting and lack the type of rim running big that Harden thrives with in Pick and Roll actions. I think Harden has one transcendent performance in him but that’s it.
X-Factor- Tyrese Maxey
Heat in 5