MIAMI, FL - MARCH 25: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks agains Guard Andre Iguodala #9 of the Philadelphia Sixers at American Airlines Arena on March 25, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Heat Vs. 76ers: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade Begin Playoff Run

Can the 76ers knock off LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat?

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Heat Vs. 76ers, NBA Playoffs: Miami's Balance Rare, But Philadelphia's Defense Nearly As Strong

The Miami Heat are the only team in the NBA with a top-5 offense and defense, and they enter their first round 2011 NBA Playoffs series against the Philadelphia 76ers with advantages in both categories. The Heat are No. 3 in offense and No. 5 in defense, while the Sixers are No. 17 in offense and No. 8 in defense. Clearly, the Heat performed better in the aggregate this season. But is there a specific factor that the Sixers can exploit?

As it turns out, Miami's offensive strength -- shooting, where the Heat rank No. 4 with an effective field goal percentage of .524 -- is also Philadelphia's defensive strength, where the Sixers rank No. 8. Philly's strongest defense is in the backcourt, with Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday. Iguodala will draw LeBron James, Miami's top weapon, while Holiday and Jodie Meeks may share Dwyane Wade. It's a tall task, to be sure. But the Sixers are below-average in preventing opponent free throws, where Miami ranks No. 3. Shaky help defense and coach Doug Collins' particular style could land LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh lots and lots of free throws.

If there's hope for Philadelphia's middling offense, it's that the team may not turn the ball over more than a handful of times each game. The 76ers are tops in the league in turnover rate (12.3 percent), while the Heat are just No. 27 in turnover creation. Erik Spoelstra used to press his guards to pressure the ball and create transition offense, but that's changed since LeBron arrived. Philadelphia doesn't have great shooters, but the team should at least be able to avoid turnovers to get more shots up toward the rim.

All data from Basketball-Reference.com. Visit our Heat vs. 76ers hub.

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NBA Playoff Odds, Heat Vs. 76ers: Miami Favored Heavily Over Philadelphia

The Miami Heat are overwhelming betting favorites over the Philadelphia 76ers in the teams' first round 2011 NBA Playoffs series, which begins on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). Bodog's odds list the Sixers as 10/1 underdogs to win the series; the odds payout on Miami is 1/18. Vegas loves the Heat!, at least in this series.

The Heat have 13/5 odds of pulling the four-game sweep, while the Sixers' odds of doing the same pay out at 100/1. The current odds for the NBA Championship list the Heat at 13/4 and Philadelphia at 150/1. LeBron James is favored over every player but Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose to become named the 2011 NBA Finals MVP, with the two-time MVP holding 11/2 odds. Interestingly, Dwyane Wade directly follows LeBron at 8/1. No Sixer is called out in the odds, so if you think Andre Iguodala or Jrue Holiday is going to take home the Bill Russell, go with field at 35/1.

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NBA Playoff Schedule, Heat Vs. 76ers: LeBron James' Miami Postseason Debut Set For Saturday

The Miami Heat were built to win championship, and they'll begin their first such NBA Playoffs campaign on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers. ABC will feature two of Miami's first four playoff games, and TNT will take the other two; this is highly understandable, given the amazing T.V. ratings the Heat have given broadcast partners during the regular season.

Here's the full series schedule:

Game 1: Sat., April 16 in Miami, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Game 2: Mon., April 18 in Miami, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 3: Thu., April 21 in Philadelphia, TBD, TNT
Game 4: Sun., April 24 in Philadelphia, 1 p.m., ABC
Game 5: Wed., April 27 in Miami (if needed)
Game 6: Fri., April 29 in Philadelphia (if needed)
Game 7: Sun., May 1 in Miami (if needed)

If the series goes to five, note that this is one of those matchups that will seem like it never ends; there are seven rest days between Game 2 and Game 5.

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NBA Playoffs 2011 Schedule: Heat Vs. 76ers Game 1 Is Saturday At 3:30 P.M. On ABC

The complete 2011 NBA Playoffs schedule has not been announced, but since all the matchups in the East bracket have been finalized, we now know when the first game of each of those series will be played. The No. 2 seed Miami Heat will be playing the No. 7 seed Philadelphia 76ers, and the first game of the Heat Vs. 76ers series will take place Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET

The game will be televised on ABC, and will follow Game 1 of the Bulls vs. Pacers series, which is at 1 p.m. ET. It will be our first chance to see LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh try to follow up a dramatic offseason and turbulent regular season with a playoff berth. The 76ers, with their litany of athletes led by Andre Iguodala, will pose an interesting challenge.

Keep up with our Heat Vs. 76ers, NBA Playoffs section for all the coverage of this series you need. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier. For 76ers' coverage and analysis, visit Liberty Ballers and SB Nation Philly.    

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NBA Playoff Predictions, Heat Vs. 76ers: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade Begin Playoff Run

LeBron JamesDwyane Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat benefited from the Boston Celtics' decision to rest their key players, leaping to the No. 2 seed in the East bracket of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Their opponent is the No. 7 seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who went on a heck of a run of their own before faltering a bit late in the year. The Heat are probably lucky to avoid the dangerous New York Knicks in the first round, but the 76ers are no pushover and could make their life difficult as they begin on this pressure-filled playoff run.

UPSET POTENTIAL

Mild. The 76ers were one of the league's best teams after November, rebounding from a 3-13 record thanks to great coaching by Doug Collins, a bounce-back year from Elton Brand, solid play from Andre Iguodala and superb development from youngsters Jrue HolidayThaddeus Young, Spencer Haws and Lou Williams. But Miami, with its athletes on the perimeter, is not an ideal matchup for them. The 76ers also have to deal with nagging injuries to Williams, who has been out of action since April 2 with a hamstring injury, and Brand, who is playing through a fractured hand. 

ANOINTMENT INVITATION

All three Heatles are properly anointed at this point, so the best bet is that one of the 76ers' youngsters breaks out with a strong series. Given Miami's problems at point guard, Jrue Holiday is an obvious candidate. The 20-year old improved tremendously as the season progressed, and while he is still erratic, his vast array of skill should be too much for Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers to handle consistently.

HINTS FOR THE FUTURE

Should Miami struggle to finish out this series against an athletic, but small 76ers team, it will mean that the Celtics' decision to trade Kendrick Perkins and become smaller themselves may have been a better one than originally anticipated. Should Miami roll over the smaller 76ers, dismissing their athleticism as but a mere pittance of what James and Wade are capable of doing in full flight, the Celtics have problems, assuming they even get by the Knicks.

MAINSTREAM MEME ALERT

This is a classic "team of stars" vs. "team better than the sum of its parts" series, which means Bill Simmons and others will go ga-ga over "The Secret" working again if the 76ers can somehow make this a series. Negative memes regarding the Heat practically write themselves at this point, so it's not hard to figure out what the stories will be. If Miami dominates, though, there will be many that shift their opinion to the Heat finally coming together as a team. The latter meme will especially hit home if and when the Celtics struggle with the Knicks.

FINAL PREDICTION

Miami in 5. It's unfortunate, because the 76ers could scare a lot of teams. But Miami is an awful matchup, and the Sixers' injuries aren't helping. The 76ers will win a game at home, but Miami should be able to close them out easily otherwise.

AND ONE

Keep up with our Heat Vs. 76ers, NBA Playoffs section for all the coverage of this series you need. For more on the Heat, head over to Peninsula is Mightier. For 76ers' coverage and analysis, visit Liberty Ballers and SB Nation Philly.

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