This Thursday night, the 76ers will be traveling to Miami. They will look to clinch the eastern conference's top spot in today's game, as just one win in their final three contests will seal the deal. Coming off of a disappointing loss to the Pacers, they were previously on an eight-game winning streak and currently stand at 47-22. After a turbulent start to their season and having their roster decimated with COVID, the Heat are making an end-of-season push, as they currently sit in 5th place at 38-31.
In their previous two matchups back in January, the Sixers took both games by scores of 137-134 and 125-108. In that first game, Joel Embiid had one of the best performances of his career, amassing 45 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals and hit the clutch jumper to send the first game to overtime, and Shake Milton really stepped up in the second game, scoring 31 points on 11/15 shooting off the bench. Both teams were missing a good amount of firepower in both games, so it will be a good test to see how they match up with one another this time around.
All-star center Joel Embiid did not travel with the team to Miami, as he will be missing tonight's contest due to a non-COVID-related illness. Matisse Thybulle (wrist) is listed as questionable. But it does appear that both Furkan Korkmaz (ankle) and Shake Milton (knee) are slated to return to action tonight. As for the Heat, trade deadline acquisition, Victor Oladipo just underwent knee surgery and will miss the remainder of the 2021 season, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic. Jimmy Butler (eye) is listed as questionable for tonight's contest.
As previously mentioned, just one win in their final three games would secure them the top spot in the eastern conference. But winning tonight's game against Miami would greatly help the playoff seeding below them. After the Sixers, the Heat will go on to face the Bucks, another team that is cream of the crop. Miami (5) is currently in a two-way tie in the middle of the playoff bracket with the Knicks (6), and lie just a half-game below the Hawks who currently sit at 4. The Sixers can help themselves in more ways than just one if they win tonight, as home-court advantage can officially be declared, but it would aid their playoff bracket if they (along with a Milwaukee win on Saturday) could push the Heat down to 6, eliminating the possibility they'd see them in the second round. As witnessed by last year's run all the way to the NBA Finals, the Heat are certainly a team capable of "turning it on," and becoming a formidable foe.