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Why a sixth place finish might be the ideal spot for the Miami Heat this season

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Rather than aiming for a first-round match-up with the Celtics, meeting the 76ers could be a better outcome.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For the Miami Heat, facing the Philadelphia 76ers without Joel Embiid in the first round might be preferred to meeting them in the second round with Embiid.

While no timetable for his return has been made public, the second or third round remains a posibility.

Part of the 76ers’ well-publicized 13-game winning streak can be attributed to its powder-puff closing schedule, as the Cleveland Cavaliers were the only Eastern Conference team they beat with a winning record during this run.

In fact since March 1, the Cavaliers were the only EC team the Sixers beat which was over .500: they previously lost to the Bucks, Heat, and Pacers in early March.

Philadelphia won all 12 of its games versus EC lottery teams, including the Charlotte Hornets 4 times and the Brooklyn Nets 3 times.

In the Cavaliers game, the 76ers bench won the game for them, seeing that Ben Simmons was a -3, JJ Redick a -10, and as a group, the Sixers bench beat the Cavaliers reserves, with Marco Belinelli making 6 3-pointers.

Without Embiid, Hassan Whiteside would match up against Amir Johnson, with James Johnson against Simmons, both of whom attempted zero treys versus the Cavaliers, while Dario Saric and Robert Covington went a combined 3 of 12 on their attempts for a triple.

If the Heat overcome the 76ers before Embiid returns, they would face the Celtics, Wizards, or Bucks in the second round for a more accessible path to the Eastern Conference Finals.

If Miami overcomes those teams, then a Dwyane Wade versus LeBron James, or a Heat versus Toronto Raptors, confrontation emerges for a chance to reach the NBA Finals and its immense worldwide exposure.