76ers Hope to Visit Heat for Last Time This Season: A Fan’s Preview

The Philadelphia 76ers have been tormented by the Miami Heat time and again. Although Sixers fans like myself were encouraged by their close defeats to the Heat in last year's playoffs, they have actually taken a step backwards on that front this year. With three straight convincing losses to LeBron James and company in 2012, the Sixers dread facing the Heat nowadays.

But if Philadelphia doesn't start winning more against everyone, it may have a second straight playoff battle with Miami in just a few weeks. To avoid that, the Sixers must win the Atlantic Division after all - so finally beating the Heat on April 3 would be a valuable jumping off point.

Philadelphia could have been back in a first place tie with the Boston Celtics, yet Miami even ruined that too. The Heat suffered another convincing defeat to a possible playoff team on the road, getting pounded by 91-72 on April 1 and letting the Celtics keep first place by a game. But as per the Sixers luck, they have to visit Miami and try to become the first opponent in 15 games to win there.

Of course, it isn't like the Sixers have had luck with knocking off the Heat in Philadelphia either. They did put together a second half rally on Mar. 16 - but that was after falling behind by 29 points early in the third quarter.

No matter how badly the Heat are struggling on the road and are just waiting for the playoffs, facing the Sixers - especially at home - looks like a sure fire band aid. Yet maybe Philadelphia will get lucky and Miami will be caught looking ahead to their home showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder 24 hours later. Considering the high stakes, the Sixers will take wins any way that they can get them.

They really need them now that their playoff standing is in this much trouble. Philadelphia isn't in danger of missing the playoffs yet, but it would now face Miami in round one if it stayed in second place. If that doesn't scare the Sixers into taking back first place, there isn't much that will - although yet another blowout loss to the Heat might actually help on that end.

Philadelphia already knows it can't match up to Miami - and the Heat have taken great pains to keep rubbing this in at every turn. But if Miami could let up just once, it would be a great benefit - and then maybe the Sixers won't need to be throttled by the Heat anew four more times this month.

Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.

Other stories from this contributor

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'Linsanity' officially finished for Knicks in 2012

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Updated Tuesday, Apr 3, 2012