The Philadelphia 76ers have not had a favorable schedule this week. The Sixers had to play the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks on back-to-back nights, where they easily lost to those two playoff teams. What’s worse, the Sixers have to cap off the week against the Miami Heat on March 8, right after the Heat pulled off the biggest escape of their 16-game winning streak.
The Sixers had to be encouraged by how the lowly Orlando Magic erased a 20-point deficit against the Heat on March 6. However, the Magic couldn’t complete the comeback as LeBron James hit a rare game-winning shot, giving the Heat a 97-96 win and the chance to extend their winning streak against the Sixers.
It is uncertain whether Philadelphia will benefit from Miami’s survival or not. If the Heat had lost, their game with the Sixers would have gotten far less attention than it will now. Yet they would have been extra motivated to blow the Sixers out after the Magic embarrassed them, and they still might be.
The Sixers have to think that they can stand up to the Heat if the Magic could do it. Then again, despite how Orlando nearly rose from the dead, Miami managed to win anyway. Even with a horrendous second half against a far inferior opponent, the Heat still couldn’t lose.
As a result, the eyes of the NBA world will be on the Sixers on Friday night, if only because the Heat’s winning streak is alive. Most of those eyes expect to see Philadelphia lay down and die, like it already did against Miami on Feb. 23. After already losing to the Washington Wizards, Celtics and Hawks this week, it’s hard to envision anything else from the Sixers.
However, Philadelphia and Miami do have something in common, in that they’ve both been stunned by Orlando recently. Of course, the Magic blew out the Sixers on Feb. 26 and made Doug Collins attack his team in a postgame press conference. In contrast, when the Magic came out of nowhere to surprise the Heat, Miami found a way to survive.
The vast differences between Philadelphia and Miami are expected to be on greater display on March 8. That would have been the case even if the Heat finally lost first, but now the Sixers’ potential embarrassment will have a much bigger spotlight.