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3-on-3 preview: Heat host the surging Sixers

LeBron JamesJesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

With Dwyane Wade likely out again, the Heat need LeBron James to pierce the stifling Sixers defense.

The Heat have plowed through their first two opponents on their tough home stand, but Saturday's oppoenent might not go down so easily. The 76ers have started out 11-4, tied for the second-best record in the East, and have shown no signs of slowing down.

Will they be a tougher matchup than the Spurs or Lakers? Should the Heat expect the Sixers to nab the three-seed or better in the East? Will Heat fans see Dwyane Wade by the time they leave town on Tuesday?

In another installment of Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on what's ahead for the Heat (10-4) against the 76ers.

1. Fact or Fiction: Saturday is the Heat's toughest game yet.

Tom Haberstroh: Fiction, but it's close. The Denver matchup was brutal for the Heat because of Nuggets are really good and the altitude is really high, but they had Dwyane Wade for that game, or at least most of it. If this wasn't the toughest game, it might be the most exciting to watch.

Michael Wallace: Fiction. At least two other games that were much tougher on paper quickly come to mind. One was facing the Atlanta Hawks on the road without LeBron or Wade to start that recent 5-game trip earlier this month. The other was playing at Denver to end it.

Brian Windhorst: Fiction. That would be the Nuggets, who smashed the Heat last week. The 76ers have gotten off to a great start and they have one of the deepest and most athletic teams in the league. But the Heat can match run with them and Philly doesn't have the big men to bother the Heat. Especially with Spencer Hawes out with injury.


2. Fact or Fiction:The 76ers will be a top-three seed in the East.

Haberstroh: Fact. Miami and the Bulls are locked in the top two spots. But who's the third? As much as I like what Orlando's doing, I'm not confident that Dwight Howard will stay there long enough for them to grab the bronze medal in the East.

Wallace: Fiction. But this will be heavily disputed. The Sixers will have just as good a shot to join Chicago and Miami in the top three in the East as anyone else. Doug Collins has his team defending and playing disciplined on offense. But I'd give Orlando the slight edge over Philly as long as Dwight Howard is in a Magic uniform. Look out for Atlanta, too.

Windhorst: Fiction. They seem to be much improved but they have benefited from a relatively easy schedule thus far. But they aren't quite in the league with the Bulls, Heat and Magic just yet. Thought it is hard to predict what will happen with the Magic.


3. Heat fans will see Dwyane Wade play on this home stand.

Haberstroh: Fact. Just check his Twitter timeline (@DwyaneWade). Think he's anxious to get back out there?

Wallace: Fact. The national debate about whether the Heat are better without him has either angered or amused Wade. It's sometimes hard to tell which bases on his sarcastic tweets of late. But it's obviously drawing a response from him. The discussion has been the best tonic for that sprained ankle that's kept him out of the past two games. My guess is he'll be back by Sunday's game.

Windhorst: Fact. He's getting antsy and perturbed at hearing about the Heat's record without him. He's back practicing, he'll be back playing soon.