NBA players have fairly good memories.
They'll remember game situations from a few days, a few weeks or even months prior.
Or in the case of the Miami Heat, over one year ago.
"They have a lot of momentum. They're playing extremely well. But streaks are meant to be broken," Heat guard Wayne Ellington said on Wednesday about the Sixers' 16-game win streak heading into the first-round series between the two teams. "They broke ours, if I remember that last year."
The Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, native and Episcopal Academy product is correct. The Sixers snapped the Heat's 13-game win streak last season with a 117-109 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 11, 2017. That outcome went a long way toward keeping the 41-41 Heat out of the playoffs.
Revenge and a shot at an NBA championship aside, you don't have to look far for motivation on either side in this year's postseason clash. The regular-season series was as competitive as they come with the two teams splitting the four games, which were all decided by single digits (see story).
"Look, this is great competition," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You look at our games, we split it 2-2. Every game went down to the wire. We had some crazy games where both teams had big leads, lost the leads. This is what you want. The 3-6 matchup is usually very, very competitive."
Even that might be understating the level of fight these squads showed against one another. This series has had trash talk (mainly between centers Joel Embiid and Hassan Whiteside), triple-doubles, buzzer-beaters and everything in between.
"If we play the game that we know that we can play, it will be a hell of a series," Dwyane Wade said. "They are obviously playing phenomenal basketball with a lot of confidence, and we have to go to their home court to start this thing off. We think it's going to be a great series."
With things appearing so evenly matched, Miami is going to rely on its extreme edge in postseason experience. The Heat have nine players on their roster with at least 10 playoff games under their belt compared to five guys for the Sixers.
"We've got our work cut out for us. There's no doubt about that," James Johnson said. "But regular season and playoffs are two totally different things."