PSA: SUPPORT THESE SIXERS!
By Justin Diaz

After attending each of the first three Sixers home games as a founding member of the 76ers Revolutionaries (you may have seen us; we're the lunatics by the opposing bench making noise all game), I have to say I'm very disappointed. Yes, we're 3-0. Yes, we blew out two teams and won convincingly against a quality Pacers team. But nonetheless I'm disappointed. Why?

Nobody seems to notice this team's success.

The opening night attendance was great, a sellout. I was very pleased by that, but the second game, a noticeable drop to around 14,000. That's right around typical, but I was still hoping we'd get more people out considering how great the team has looked. Last night was an atrocity. 8,600 paid attendance, and even those numbers were likely inflated. Are you serious, Philly? This is a first place team we have here! They are playing great basketball and, maybe more importantly from an attendance standpoint, they're playing a Philly brand of basketball; Lockdown defense, hustling after loose balls, getting physical down low. That's supposed to be the style of play we embrace. But we haven't seen that.

If you need a reason to support this team, look at Jrue Holiday. People always complain that this team doesn't have a superstar, but we do. It's Jrue. His point guard instincts are still coming to him, but he has all the talent in the world. Dribble penetration, pulling up for jumpers, ferocious defense, the kid can do it all. He does it night in and night now, but people aren't coming out to watch him. It's a shame.

If you need a reason to support this team, look at Andre Iguodala. The guy may be the most maligned Philly athlete today, but he goes out every night and plays his game. He has an ugly jumper, but it goes in. He distributes the ball and always seems to find the open guy. He will essentially remove one of the opposing players from the game on the offensive end with his defensive intensity. That's an easy type of game to appreciate.

If you need a reason to support this team, look at Lou Williams. If you don't like what Iggy brings, Lou Will is the exact opposite. His size limits him defensively, but he is instant offense every time he gets on the floor. He reminds me of a poor-man's Iverson with his driving ability, but he has a better jump shot. And he is TWICE the rapper Jewelz ever was. If everybody loved Iverson so much, there's no reason to not throw that same support behind Lou Will.

If you need a reason to support this team, look at Evan Turner. After one season people were already calling him a bust. Was it fair? No. Did he mope about it? No. He got in the gym and worked on his game, getting lessons from the Shot Doctor and Philly's own Herb Magee. Eight games into the season, the results look good. His form is much improved, and his confidence to take jumpers is vastly improved. The kid is a star in the making, and you can get out and see him now.

If you need a reason to support this team, look at Nikolai Vucevic. People dreaded he'd be a Spencer Hawes clone, but he looks great thus far. Particularly against the Pacers he was spectacular. In 17 minutes, he put up 11 points and ripped 8 boards, just two shy of his first career double-double. He is only going to get better as the season goes along, and he, Jrue, and ET form a young core that could be together for the next decade.

If you need a reason to support this team, look at Spencer Hawes. Like Turner, he was a guy who got a lot of grief from fans last year for his performance. He was labeled soft, among other things. How did he respond? By busting it all offseason to get better and the results are clear. The same guy who was booed mercilessly last season now has the crowd chanting his name. He's an extremely likable guy, so get out and watch him play some ball.

Above all else, if you need a reason to support this team, look at Doug Collins. He took a team that looked pathetic just two years ago, and has turned them into, dare I say, a contender. This is the best team in the Atlantic, and we have Doug to thank. He has found a role for everybody, and the guys are flourishing. His no-nonsense approach should resonate with this city, but we're not getting out to watch them. Come on, Philly, I know we're better than that.

Get out to as many games as possible. With as affordable as they are, every Sixers fan should make it a goal to get to at least one game a week. You can get a seat as cheap as $15, and you're going to get quality basketball from the hometown team. We the Revolutionaries are trying to create an intense game day atmosphere, but there's only so much we can do. We need a packed house screaming their heads off every night. We need teams to loathe coming to Philly not just for the team they're going to play, but the fans they're going to have to deal with. Get on it, fans. I know you have it in you.

 
 
Sixers Six: Talking Points
By Justin Diaz

Last night marked the beginning of the most anticipated Sixers season in years. A competitive series with the Heat and the complete ownership overhaul have grabbed Philly's attention. This team is poised to become a serious threat in an Eastern Conference that, beyond the Heat and Bulls, seems wide open. There are many things to take from the pre-season tilt with the Wizards, but these are the Sixers Six.

1. Familiarity breeds Success 

From the jump until the final whistle, it was clear that the Sixers had chemistry that the Wizards lacked. Fluid passes led to open shots, and solid defensive rotation made Washington's offense look very stiff. The veteran nature of the team and the lack of roster turnover caused this. Many people believe the Sixers will stumble out of the gate with their six-game West Coast trip, but with abbreviated training camps the teams which have stayed in tact are the ones who will surge early. This benefits the Sixers; while other teams will look to gel, the Sixers have already done so and should be able to steal a few games early.

2. Bench Play is Key

With 66 games jammed into four months, it will be difficult for teams to work their stars for many minutes. Conversely, teams which can go deep into their benches with little or no drop off will shine. This also plays in the Sixers favor. When Thad, Lou Will, ET, Vucevic and the like came on, they did not miss a beat. In fact the Sixers began to dominate play once the benches came on the floor. This advantage will be key later on in the season and into the playoffs (playoffs?! yes, playoffs), because everybody will be fresh while the nagging injuries and fatigue begin to set in for more star-heavy teams.

3. Hawesome

When Sixers fans heard that maligned center Spencer Hawes had put in off-season work with Shawn Kemp, we had hoped he would have learned something about physical play. While Hawes did seem slightly better defensively, his conditioning was noticeably improved and it showed in his game. Hawes looked extremely quick in the post, knocking down hook shots and getting open jumpers. It is not the conventional play you want from a center, but it is much better than what we got last season. If Hawes puts up 12 points and 9 boards a night, I'll be happy and Sixers fans will be happy.

4. The Magee Effect

Evan Turner's work in the gym this summer with Herb Magee was well-covered by the media in Philly. When news came that Jodie Meeks had once again won the starting two spot, people thought the lessons must not have paid off. People thought wrong. Even early on when ET was missing his jumpers, his form was significantly improved, bringing the ball down more and bringing in his elbow. While he was short with his shots, he was consistently short, showing that it was the same shot each time and simply took the minor judgment correction of putting more on it. He made that fix later in the game and the shots began to fall. His behind-the-back crossover on John Wall into a ten-foot jumper was one of the prettiest plays of the night, and if he can bring that shot night in and night out he will play his way into the starting lineup in no time.

5. The Jruth

I can't say enough about Jrue Holiday. He was the best player on the floor and it wasn't even close. He made John Wall look foolish on multiple occasions, showing an extremely quick first step and a much-improved jump shot. His decisions with the ball were prompt and precise, and his defense was lockdown. People want the Sixers to go out and get a superstar, but they already have one and he wears number 11. I am so extremely excited to see Holiday's growth this season because while he's already good, he is only going to get better. This is the year he makes an All-Star game and it will be well deserved. 

6. Brackins' Breakthrough?

He was only on the floor for about ten minutes, surpassing only Lavoy Allen and Xavier Silas in playing time, but Craig Brackins looked very impressive in his short stint. The big man showed an ability to knock down an open shot, draining two threes in his time on the court. He also showed a good defensive presence in the post, with solid positioning and boxing out. These are small things, but the small things get noticed when you have a coach like Doug Collins. Look for Brackins to become a consistent part of the bench rotation this season; if he does, it's just one more weapon the team can bring in and it will only make the team that much fresher come playoff time.

The bottom line from Friday night is this; yes, it was only the pre-season, but the Sixers look to be in mid-season form. It was a beauty to behold, and if they play like that when the games count this team is going places. 

 
 
Passionate, Intense, Proud: The New Era of Sixers Basketball‏
By Justin Diaz

For years, the Sixers organization was a mere afterthought to its owners. At best a secondary concern to the Flyers-crazed Ed Snider, we saw the franchise stagnate in mediocrity for a decade following the Finals appearance of 2001. We sw flashes of optimism; Andre Miller led a fast-paced and exciting offense until he walked away to Portland, and last year the Sixers played some great basketball down the stretch before bowing out to the Heat. 

The fact of the matter, however, was that the Sixers were never going to revisit those early-decade successes and realize the glories of yesteryear without a major organizational overhaul. As fans, it can be difficult to be passionate for a product that is not passionately formed. The Sixers were just that for so many years after former president Pat Croce left; Snider and the like were not in touch with us whatsoever. The Sixers played second fiddle in their own building, and team success and attendance reflected that.

What we needed for the organization to take the next step from an operative perspective was exactly what we needed on the court last season. Doug Collins was brought in for two main reasons; his ability to turn teams around and his understanding of Philly. He made it clear from day one; "This is going to be a team Philadelphia can be proud of." And indeed it was; without question I was more "proud" of the Sixers at season's end than I was of the Eagles, Flyers, or (this still hurts to write) Phillies. It was a team I could be proud of, but not quite an organization.

That changed Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning the ownership swap that had been rumored for months became official as Comcast-Spectacor turned over team operations to Apollo Management Inc., headed by Joshua Harris. He, in turn, named Adam Aron the team's CEO.

Without even listening to a word either of Harris or Aron said, one thing is plainly obvious; these are Philly guys. Harris graduated magna cum laude from Penn's famous Wharton School of Business. Aron attended Abington High School, mere minutes away from the Wells Fargo Center. They grew up watching the Sixers, just like we did, so they know full well the passion we bear for our teams and how that passion can be harvested into on-court success.

Their introductory press conference further confirmed and even enhanced this notion. They tied everything back to this team's history, and how important it is to them. These days a lot of people seem to forget that the Sixers are, by most standards, the third greatest franchise in league history behind the Lakers and Celtics. We trail only the Celtics and Lakers in wins and championship appearances, and while the Bulls, Spurs, and Pistons have managed to win more championships, their successes were concentrated into one era while the Sixers have withstood the test of time.  That is something for us to be proud of, yet people have let it slip from their minds that Sixers basketball is more than a team; it is a legacy. As Aron rattled off the great achievements and players we have had, it became clear that he will not let us forget about that.

These are not just guys that are in-tune with our past, however. They have already begun to directly influence the team as it relates to us today in a very positive manner. The most clear of these initiatives was the slashing of ticket prices; notably, the 9,000 seats which comprise the lower bowl of the Wells Fargo Center have been cut nearly in half. The cheapest lower-level seats are now $29 as opposed to $55, and Aron made it clear that "this is not a promotion. These are our new prices." It is so extremely refreshing to see ownership which sympathizes with the fan in these economic times instead of taking every penny possible. From people like me as a college student to the father trying to take his son to a game, this is a great move for all Philly fans.

They have even reached out to us in a more direct way. The new ownership has encouraged Sixers fans to go to www.newsixersowner.com to send in their ideas on how to best improve the in-game experience. Think Jrue should take the shots in the clutch? Write it in. Think Iggy needs to work on his jumper? Think Marreese needs a big man coach, perhaps Moses Malone, to maximize his potential?  Write it in. Think Hip-Hop needs to go? Write it in. New management will read every single submission. The 1,776 (if you need me to explain that number, you can go root for another team) fans whose submissions they like the most will receive a free ticket to a future game. To quote radio announcer Tom McGinnis, "are you kiddin me?" That they are even accepting fan feedback is great, but they're providing an incentive to do so? That's how you win over a fan base.

Now, the media is going to hype how Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are now minority owners of the team, and while that's great from a marketing point-of-view, it is essentially irrelevant from an operative one. Smith can show up courtside, take in the games, and that will certainly attract positive press for the team. But the big news today is clearly about Harris and Aron. They will lead us into this new era of Sixers basketball, they will harvest our passion, intensity, and pride as Philly fans, and they will use that harvest to create a contender. Last season's conclusion gave us on-court, short-term hope. Tuesday's developments give us long-term hope, and without a doubt the best has yet to come. While the team was previously an afterthought to Snider, Aron stated it very plainly.

"This isn't our team. This is Philadelphia's team. It is your team."

 
 
76ers Draft Preview
By Justin Diaz

Last season, the Sixers were one of the best stories in the NBA. Doug Collins inspired a previously underachieving team to overachieve, rebounding from the infamous 3-13 start to finish at .500 and give the Heat some serious trouble in the first round; while they knocked us out in five, every game besides Game Two was close, and I like to think Doug Collins discovered the blueprint for beating the Big Three (you're welcome, Dirk). But none of that will matter if the Sixers stay stagnant; 41 wins was very exciting, but the ultimate goal of the organization has to be to win a championship. To do that, June 23rd's NBA Draft will be crucial. In addition to any picks the team may make, they could also trade some players; the Iguodala rumors have been running rampant lately. With that in mind, here are some options the Sixers could consider, both with their pick and any potential trades.

At 16th:

Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas: This has been the popular pick for the Sixers per most mock drafts, and for good reason. While brother Marcus is more heralded, Markieff packs more size into his frame and could be a great presence in the post for the Sixers. 13.6 points per game with 8.3 rebounds in the Big 12 is nothing to sneeze at; he has the potential to be a solid starting option at the four for years to come. Some experts believe he could be as good as Rasheed Wallace; while Morris is slightly smaller, he too has shown the ability to knock down an open three (42.4% from three-point territory in 2011). The similarities don't end on the court; like Wallace, Morris is a Philly native, born and raised in North Philly and a graduate of Penn Charter. Morris could step in day one and know what the expectations are in this city, and meet them.

Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State: While most mocks predict Faried to go later in the first round, he could be a steal at 16th. Faried is the most prolific rebounder in NCAA history; he surpassed Tim Duncan's career record this past season. This past season, he averaged a staggering 14.5 rebounds a game, and scored 17.3 points a game to go with that. 2.3 blocks a game further show his defensive dominance. While these numbers all look good, some are worried that Faried may simply benefit from the lesser competition he faces in the Ohio Valley Conference. These fears are unwarranted; in Morehead's first round upset over Louisville in March, Faried scored 12 points and pulled down 17 rebounds. Faried reminds me of a more talented version of Reggie Evans, who was beloved here in his short tenure. He always hustles, is a monster on the glass, and can inspire the team with his play. He would immediately play coming off the bench, and could work his way into a starting role at some point.

Nikola Vucevic, C, Southern California: Noticing a trend yet? The Sixers need some big men, and Vuvecic certainly fits the bill; at 7' even, he is the tallest player in the draft. As his eastern European (Montenegro, to be specific) name would suggest, Vucevic can shoot the ball, knocking down 34.9% of his three-point attempts last season. That does not mean he lacks the ability to be a traditional big man, however; he averaged 10.3 rebounds a game last season at USC, and packs 260 pounds into his frame. Vucevic, like Faried, would be a bit of a reach, but for a team whose most glaring need is at center, he could very well be worth the risk here.

Trades for Iguodala:

Monta Ellis, G, Golden State: Of the rumors to surface regarding Iguodala, this was the first and most popular. Ellis is a scorer first, averaging 24.1 points a game last season, but the main complaint against him is his defense. Critics of the potential move say that he is simply a more expensive version of Lou Will, but that is not quite accurate. While Williams provides great scoring off the bench, he does so against other teams' benches; Ellis knows night in and night out that he is the primary concern of the opposition, and he still produces. Also, while Williams' size automatically makes him a defensive liability against larger players, Ellis is not necessarily small; at 6'3", he has the stature to play solid defense, he just needs a coach to inspire him to do so; Doug Collins fits that bill perfectly. My main holdup on this deal, however, would be that it could hurt Evan Turner's development; he is poised to start at the two next year, and Ellis is a two as well; while Turner could slide to the three, it would take the ball out of his hands more. Despite this, Ellis is still an intriguing option in a trade.

Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers: Kaman is one of the most underrated players in the game today. While he battled a myriad on injuries last season, when healthy he is good for about 18 points a game and 9 rebounds, as he was in 2009-10. This trade makes sense for both teams; as Iguodala has become expendable here due to the growth of Thaddeus Young, so too has Kaman in LA with Blake Griffin's dominance and the emergence of DeAndre Jordan as an athletic big. Kaman would immediately step in here and be a massive improvement over Spencer Hawes, who frustrated us so often with his soft play in the low-post. While the Clippers have said they fully intend to keep Kaman, don't be surprised if a deal gets worked out by the time the Draft comes around.

While the Sixers don't seem ready to fight for a championship yet, the window of opportunity may be much closer than it seems; Boston grows older by the day. Dwight Howard may not even be a member of the Magic by the time the season starts (a dream would be for him to become a Sixer, but let's be realistic). Who knows where Miami's heads are at after their collapse in the Finals, and the Bulls remain unproven. The Eastern Conference may very well be wide open, and if the Sixers play their cards right next Wednesday, they could become legitimate contenders.


 
 
Bye-Bye Iggy and 76ers for Sale?
By Kevin K

ESPN.com is on fire the past two days when it comes to Sixers news. Late Monday night ESPN reported that "the Warriors and 76ers discussed trade involving G Monta Ellis and F Andre Iguodala".

Now today, ESPN.com's Henry Abbott is reporting, "Comcast Sixers sale imminent to a NY-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris". 

Harris, 46, co-founded Apollo Global Management, which invests primarily in distressed properties, in 1990. In Forbes' 2011 billionaire rankings, Harris was reported to have a net worth of $1.5 billion.

Other investors in the deal include private equity executive David Blitzer and former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien.

Blitzer moved from New York to London in 2002 to create the London-based European office of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest private investment groups in the world.

The 76ers were not known to be on sale before this report.

UPDATE: Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko confirms sale of 76ers, "We are in discussions about the future of the team. These discussions are confidential."


Read Abbott's report here on ESPN.com

Abbott is a Senior NBA Writer for ESPN.com
 
 
Sixers Show Heart in Game 4 Victory
By Justin Diaz

The Sixers found themselves down four in the closing minutes. "Here we go again," thought many fans. The Sixers were close late in Games 1 and 3, but the Heat were simply too much. In Game 4, however, the two smallest players on the team came up the biggest for the Sixers.

A Jrue Holiday three-pointer brought the Sixers within one with 46.6 seconds left, and Lou Will's huge three - after he got the rebound on the defensive end - put the home team up for good as the Sixers managed to stay alive and force Game 5 back in Miami with an 86-82 victory.

In a season where Doug Collins has made all the right moves, it was the move he didn't make that proved to be the most important of the game. After Williams secured the rebound, he looked over to the bench, expecting Collins to call a timeout to set up the last shot. Collins refused, frantically waving his team down the floor. Like a parent, he wanted his kids to show some independence and do it themselves. It worked, and Collins was proud after the game.

"Today was a reward for them for all their hard work," Collins said. "To look eye-to-eye with LeBron and Wade and Bosh ... is terrific."

The Sixers started out red-hot, as they did in their March 25 visit to Miami and in Game 1. The crowd was loving it, but as happened in both of those games, Miami went on a monstrous run. A 20-2 stretch put the Heat up one going into halftime. 

At this point, the Sixers easily could have laid down and nobody would have been upset. Seemingly over-matched all series long, it would have been entirely understandable if they just gave up. But anybody who expected that from this team hadn't been watching all year. In a season where the Sixers fought back from a 3-13 start and demonstrated their resiliency so often, they would not simply concede defeat. Even down six with a 1:30 to go after LeBron just hit what seemed to be a dagger, the Sixers kept fighting. 

Evan Turner landed the knockout punch in a game where he showed as much promise as he has at any point in his rookie campaign. His two free-throws to put the Sixers up four with 2.8 seconds remaining sealed the deal and capped a tremendous afternoon for Turner, who finished with a team-high 17 points and added 6 rebounds as well.

Turner was also involved in a minor scuffle early in the second quarter. After James Jones stepped out of bounds, he decided to launch a three anyway. Turner contested, and Jones shoved Turner. Thad Young quickly came to the aid of his teammate, shoving Jones right back, and the players gathered in front of the Heat bench. While nothing came of it, the locals loved it, and it showed the Sixers would not simply back down and kiss the Heat's ring (wait a minute... they don't have one yet!).

Yes, it's just one game, but for one game the Sixers were better than the superteam down south. Will they come back to win this series? Probably not. But the series isn't over until one team wins four games. Until that happens, the Sixers will keep fighting.

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REUTERS/Tim Shaffer
 
 
76ers Down 2-0 in Series, Coming Home
By Kevin K

A Playoff series isn't a series until the road wins on the road, the 76ers couldn't do that in games 1 and 2. In Game 2, the Sixers were awful in a 94-73 loss to the Heat.

At one point the 76ers were only 20% shooting on the floor. They were consistently horrible throughout the game, losing by 21 proves that.

Yes we can make excuses like the referee's were on the Heat's side throughout, but that doesn't give the 76ers 21 points.

The 76ers are now returning home and are looking for at least one win in the Series. The team needs to step up and start playing at a higher level if they want to beat the Heat.

Show Ya Luv and Let's GO! Bring it home Sixers!
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Photo courtesy of Philly Sports Daily
 
 
76ers look to bounce back in Game Two
By Kevin K

The 76ers had a hard fought Game One with the Heat, only to fall 97-89.

In the first quarter the 76ers jumped out to a 14 point lead. Then rushed shots and missed opportunities, the 76ers found themselves down. The 76ers youth came out to play against the Heat. Going down double digits at one point in the third quarter and able to come back to only down one in the fourth.

The Sixers played well. Yes the game was poorly officiated with many nonsense calls against the Sixers and not much against the Heat, but the Sixers didn't give up.

Andre Iguodala we know wasn't going to do much offensively in this game. He was basically playing on one leg throughout, but what he was lacking offensively, he made up defensively against Lebron James. Iggy held James to a 4 for 14 performance on the floor. Most of "King" James' points (21) actually came off of free throws (13 for 14).

Yes the 76ers lost in the game, but they proved that they could stick with the Heat. I am not saying the Sixers are going to win the series. I am just saying that they played strong and if they continue to play the way they did, they will give the Heat a run for their money.
 
 
Believe: 76ers/Heat Preview
By Justin Diaz

"Believe." It is a simple action that can go a long way. Belief can take a group of overachievers a long way. It did for the Flyers last spring, when they entered the playoffs as a seven seed that nobody expected to make any noise. Two months later, the magical run ended only two wins away from the Stanley Cup. The Sixers find themselves in the same position, a seven seed expected to quietly go into the night. But, as Coach Collins said on Mike and Mike, if they simply believe, anything is possible, especially when a couple match-ups in this series actually favor the Sixers.

Point guard: This season, Jrue Holiday has developed into one of the best young players in the league. An appearance in the Rookie-Sophomore game was a great reward for the 20 year old second-year standout, and his strides this season have been essential to the Sixers success. For Miami, Mike Bibby provides a veteran presence at the point, but is not the same player he was in years past. Any time these two find themselves in a one-on-one situation, look for Holiday to abuse the older Bibby.

Advantage - Sixers

Shooting guard: Jodie Meeks' newfound scoring touch has been a pleasant surprise for Sixers fans. Acquired last season in a trade for Royal Ivey, the move initially stumped some experts, but Meeks' smooth stroke has been huge for the Sixers, as he spreads out defenses to allow for penetration from the likes of Andre Iguodala and Holiday. On the other side, however, the Heat have one of the best in the league. Whenever the Sixers have had success against Miami, Dwyane Wade has gone on a massive run to regain control of the game. He dictates how these games will go, and he has to be the Sixers' number one concern.

Advantage - Heat

Small forward: Iguodala deserve serious Defensive Player of the Year consideration. His consistent effort this season has been crucial to the Sixers' turnaround, and when he's on defensively, the entire team feeds off of that. Yes, his shot still frustrates us to no end, but his high-energy pay is a joy to watch. His number one task will be to contain LeBron, and when looking at Iguodala's history against him, that isn't too far-fetched. If you go through LeBron's career, some of his worst games are against the Sixers, mainly due to Iggy. Obviously LeBron is a once-in-a-generation type talent, and he's going to have his "holy ____" moments in this series, but he will not dominate the way some expect him to.

Advantage - Heat

Power forward: This is the most intriguing match-up in the whole series. It's the hard-nosed veteran Elton Brand and the super-athletic but soft Chris Bosh. Bosh's style of play is great in the regular season when defenses are relaxed and the intensity is low, but Brand's type of game wins playoff series. You need somebody that's going to get physical down low, scrap for the rebounds, and flat-out want it more than the other guy. Nobody can convince me that Bosh wants to win this series more than Brand, who dominated in his only playoff trip with the Clippers in 2006, averaging 25.4 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. Look for Brand to have his way with Bosh and frustrate him.

Advantage - Sixers

Center: While the power forward battle is the most intriguing, the center match-up may be the most lackluster. Spencer Hawes has been a big disappointment in his time in Philly. He seems more interested in taking threes than establishing post position and actually fulfilling the role of a center, while the Heat have had a steady rotation of has-beens Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier and never-will-be Joel Anthony. The only advantage I can find for either team is the experience of Dampier and Ilgauskas could play a factor down the stretch, but beyond that expect a lot of nothing from the centers.

Advantage - Heat

Bench: This isn't even close. The Sixers have two Sixth Man of the Year candidates in Thad Young and Lou Williams, and will also get big contributions from Andres Nocioni and Tony Battie while Evan Turner could also provide a spark coming off the bench. The Heat have Mike Miller, a solid outside shooter but nothing the Sixers can't contain, Eddie House, nowhere near the player he was five years ago, and James Jones, who can make outside shots as well but shouldn't present too many problems. In their last matchup, the Sixers opened up big leads when both teams had to go into their benches. Expect that to be a common theme throughout this series.

Advantage - Sixers

Coach: Another no-brainer. Doug Collins has taken this team from a league-wide laughing stock to the playoffs in just one short year. Erik Spoelstra's team was crying after a loss. It's quite clear which team respects their coach and which would prefer to lead themselves. If these games are close late, this advantage will manifest itself.

Advantage - Sixers

Going through the individual match-ups, I have the Sixers with four and the Heat with three. The same in the series? It's certainly possible. I could easily see the Sixers frustrating Miami and rattling them. The Sixers are, right now, America's Team. The entire nation wants to see them upset the Heat, and it isn't as ridiculous a proposition as some think. However, even the most loyal Sixers fan has to admit the Heat are the better team and likely to win. My heart says Sixers in seven, but ultimately I say Heat in six. Here's to the Sixers proving me wrong. After all, it doesn't matter what I think. If the men in that locker room believe they can make it happen, I may very well have some crow to eat in two weeks, and I certainly hope I do.

Game 1 American Airlines Arena Saturday, April 16 3:30 p.m. on ABC
Game 2 American Airlines Arena Monday, April 18 7:00 p.m. on TCN
Game 3 Wells Fargo Center Thursday, April 21 TBA  on CSN
Game 4 Wells Fargo Center Sunday, April 24 1:00 p.m. on ABC
*Game 5 American Airlines Arena Wednesday, April 27 TBA on TBA
*Game 6 Wells Fargo Center Friday, April 29 TBA on TBA
*Game 7 American Airlines Arena Sunday, May 1 TBA on TBA

*if necessary

note: TBA = To Be Announced
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First round schedule

Game 1 American Airlines Arena Saturday, April 16 3:30 p.m. on ABC
Game 2 American Airlines Arena Monday, April 18 7:00 p.m. on TCN
Game 3 Wells Fargo Center Thursday, April 21 TBA  on CSN
Game 4 Wells Fargo Center Sunday, April 24 1:00 p.m. on ABC
*Game 5 American Airlines Arena Wednesday, April 27 TBA on TBA
*Game 6 Wells Fargo Center Friday, April 29 TBA on TBA
*Game 7 American Airlines Arena Sunday, May 1 TBA on TBA

note: TBA = To Be Announced

*if necessary