Miami Heat: Game 1 The First Matchup With James Harden As 76er

Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat looks on Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat looks on Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat finally know who they’ll face in Game 1 of their second-round matchup in the NBA Playoffs. With the Philadelphia 76ers finally finishing off the Toronto Raptors on Thursday evening, being up 3-0 before allowing the Raptors to make the series 3-2, the 76ers got things done in Toronto.

Well, that means that they are the team that the Miami Heat have been waiting on since they last played Tuesday night, their elimination bout where they took out the Trae Young-led Atlanta Hawks without two of their top four guys going in Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler.

That’s just the nature of this little chat though, well, sort of. When you think about this matchup between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s, not only, been a long time coming, but that’s mainly because it hasn’t happened before.

While, of course, the Miami Heat have played the 76ers this past season, four matchups during the regular year that saw the two teams split the quartet of contests at two each, they haven’t faced this iteration of the 76ers.

The Miami Heat will face the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 2 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Interestingly enough, they haven’t faced the James Harden version yet.

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With the trade to bring James Harden in happening on February 10th, right before the NBA Trade Deadline, the Miami Heat wouldn’t face Harden in either of their two games with Philly beyond that date. Though it shouldn’t matter much, as they have plenty of experience defending Harden,  it’s still an interesting dynamic to the whole series.

Again though, it shouldn’t matter a ton, as the Miami Heat have been one of the best teams defending him in the league across his career. Ranked near the bottom third when it comes to his averages against, 18th to be precise, the Miami Heat are allowing 24.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game to the electric and enigmatic combo guard.

He’s electric because, well—you saw the numbers. He’s enigmatic because on top of only averaging 22 points per game this season, his lowest total since leaving Oklahoma City after his third year in the league, he’s averaged even fewer than that since arriving in Philadelphia, though only slightly at 21 points per game.

It’s a real quandary for Philly. However, for the Miami Heat, it’s something to build on.

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Either way though, the Miami Heat will have a chance to get their first taste of action against the Philadelphia version of James Harden in Monday’s Game 1. It should be a barn burner of a series.