What Makes Heat Daunting First-round Matchup for Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Brett Brown isn't going to ignore the challenges posed by the Heat. He isn't about to change the Sixers' style because of their first-round matchup, either. 

"What they're doing has been successful," Brown said Thursday. "We don't need to reinvent much. We need to re-focus in some areas as it relates to the Miami Heat as a specific opponent. But there needs to be a notion led by me that we're not going to make this hard. We're not going to overthink it. We're going to do what we've been doing and just try to do it harder, better, longer."

The three-seeded Sixers enter the series against the sixth-seeded Heat on a 16-game winning streak. They are a different team than the last time they faced the Heat on March 8, a loss in Miami that split the regular season series 2-2. The Sixers have gelled with a revamped bench that includes Marco Belinelli, Markelle Fultz, and Ersan Ilyasova, while learning how to win without Joel Embiid. Brown is prepping for the series as if Embiid will be unavailable.

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The Sixers are returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The Heat fell short of making the postseason last year but they've been there plenty of times. This will be their eighth playoff berth under head coach Erik Spoelstra, who has won a pair of NBA titles. 

"We're playing a team that is playoff-driven, playoff-hardened, culturally sound, been-there-done-that, years of experience making adjustments," Brown said. "This isn't new to them. I say all of that with reality and a heavy dose of respect."

The Heat's collective style of offense stands out to Brown. They do not have a clear-cut "go-to" scorer. Goran Dragic leads the team with 17.3 points per game and nine players averaged in double-digits. No one averaged more than 15 points in the handful of games played in April to close out the regular season. 

"There is some offensive firepower with their personnel in relation to playing downhill," Brown said. "When we look at the teams that have hurt us, they have things that hurt us. Their notion of being able to play longer in a 24-second shot clock, they're not reliant on a one or a two pass thing. They're happy to go side-to-side and play until they get something they like. They still look at early offense in transition but it's really if they don't get something quick, they're happy to play basketball in a half court environment, which is very playoff-driven. Their purposeful with what they do in a halfcourt offense."

The Heat hold their opponents to the fourth-lowest scoring average in the league, 102.9 points per game. 

"Defensively, they're committed to what they do with their rules," Brown said. "They're purposeful with their accountability and how they believe sort of just general defense should be played. In (Hassan) Whiteside and Bam (Adebayo), they have something great at the rim. And they have toughness on the perimeter."

Still, the Sixers see this first-round series as just a starting point to achieving something greater.

"We want more. Quite possibly this team can do that," Brown said. "There is an element of unknown that we're going into that I'm excited about. Nobody's intimidated by it. We've stamped off on a style of play. It's no mystery to who we are … 

"We've won 16 games in a row for a reason in regards to this seems to fit our group and we've walked it down and feel good about how we do things. Nobody, led by me, is content with where we're at."

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