Derek Bodner's comprehensive post at Liberty Ballers has more insightful information and fun facts than your favorite almanac. Did you know that Dwyane Wade has scored 92 points on 62 shots this season vs. the Sixers? Bodner recommends that Philadelphia cross-match its guards defensively, assigning the pesky, physical Jrue Holiday to Wade and the less effective Jodie Meeks to Mike Bibby. As Bodner notes, it's not a perfect solution, but it might slow down Wade who looks at Meeks and sees a drumstick, much the way the stranded, starving islander in a Loony Tunes cartoon views his companion.
Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated draws an exquisite portrait of Sixers' head coach Doug Collins in the current issue of SI. Collins' exuberance and precision have rubbed off on his younger players, one reason why Philly has rebounded from a 3-13 start and finds itself playing a game this afternoon while the Charlottes and Milwaukees of the world hit the links, or do whatever NBA players do on April 16 when their teams are lottery-bound. Rosenberg captures Collins' RainMannish capacity to remember most sequences from most of the games his team plays.
If you missed Kate Fagan's story from last week about how Collins has instilled rookie Evan Turner with confidence and discipline, please check it out. Fagan has another story on Collins in which we learn the coach still prefers the pink stuff to sweeten his coffee.
Evan Turner this morning on Twitter: "It's crazy how i grew up watching the NBA Playoffs on tv. And now I'll be playing in my first playoff game this afternoon. Lol"
Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook provides a visual bible to the Heat-Sixers series. His offensive breakdown highlights the Heat's advanced pick-and-roll game and Philly's post game anchored by Elton Brand, with some added attention to Thad Young's nifty left-handed hook. The defensive breakdown focuses on the Heat's pick-and-roll coverage, which Erik Spoesltra has orchestrated masterfully, and the Sixers' strength chasing shooters off the line and preventing the 3-point shot.
Even the most thorough NBA reader doesn't always think to visit a NBA team's website. But if you have even the slightest bit of interest in understanding what the Heat want to accomplish on the court, you should put Heat.com's Couper Moorhead at the top of your RSS Reader. His piece on LeBron James' evolving post game was an instant classic. If you read Moorhead's "Preview Possessions" feature, he'll tell you why Dwyane Wade might be the Heat's offensive catalyst in this series.
Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie previews the series: "You tend to see this sort of series every year. The 76ers are good, the Heat are greater. The 76ers are an opportunistic offensive team that drives well and is at its best after securing a turnover and leaking out in transition, and God help you if the team's streaky shooters start hitting. The Heat? All of that, plus more. Plus 70-win hopes and LeBron James(notes) musing aloud as to whether or not the Heat will win five or six championships. He isn't wrong for keeping his eye on that particular sky."
Tom Ziller of SB Nation: "[F]or the basketball hardcore, those who doubted the coalescing of star power in South Beach with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and those who embraced the crazy contraption, we're watching to see if LeBron vindicates his decision with a championship. He couldn't do it all alone because no one (not even the greats of the past) could do it all alone. Now he has help. Will he rise?"
ProBasketballTalk's Rob Mahoney on how the Heat can win it all: "The key to Miami’s offense is the allocation of shots to the most efficient players and the most efficient zones on the floor. James, Wade, and Bosh take a lion’s share of the Heat’s shot attempts, and thus score a lion’s share of the points. That only makes sense considering that all three players can create quality shots, shoot around 50 percent from the field in the process, and are capable of drawing a ton of fouls to boost their productivity." The last point is crucial and something Tom Haberstroh has addressed in passing, but is a key component of the Heat's offense: There will be games over the next few weeks when the Heat will make their living at the stripe.
Mahoney has the most diverse game this side of Pau Gasol. This is his cinematic preview of the 2011 Playoffs.
Warning, Dade County: Trey Kerby is in town. Here's TBJ's preview of the series. I suspect we'll be seeing more intriguing stuff from Kerby as he invades AA Arena.
Hot Hot Hoops reaffirms that this matchup is likely to become a small-ball series very quickly.