Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gives respect to Sixers star James Harden

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The Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat are set to do battle on Monday in Game 1 to begin the Eastern Conference semifinals and it is already shadowed by injuries.

Joel Embiid will miss at least the first two games of this series due to his orbital fracture and Heat guard Kyle Lowry will miss Game 1 due to a hamstring injury. That means both teams will have to rely on others to get the job done in this series.

The Sixers have a future Hall of Famer now leading the way in the form of James Harden who will have the offense focused on him now without Embiid. The Heat did not see Harden in any of the four matchups with Philadelphia so they understand that this will be a new challenge for them.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gave his respect to Harden per Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“He definitely changes the dynamic,” Spoelstra said after Friday’s practice. “You’re talking about an MVP player. A guy who can manipulate the game; he can hurt you whether he’s scoring or whether he’s assisting, or whether he’s just manipulating the defense.”

Harden will have to focus on making sure the Sixers get into their sets on the offensive end and he will have to really be the leader of this group. Miami will have the advantage a bit due to their depth, but Harden can swing things in Philadelphia’s favor with his explosive offensive ability.

This post originally appeared on Sixers Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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