Sixers-Heat: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Heat: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (13-25) will try to make it two in a row over the Miami Heat (27-11) on Friday night.

Fresh off a thrilling, last-second victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday, the Sixers surely haven’t forgotten about the opening-night upset victory over the Heat.

Then again, the Heat haven’t forgotten, either (see story).

So with that in mind, here are a few things to look out for in the matchup:

1. Paybacks can be hell …
That opening-night victory over the Heat remains the signature victory of the season for the Sixers. With five players making their debut with the Sixers, not including head coach Brett Brown, the team built a 19-0 lead, fell to a nine-point deficit by the end of the third quarter, and then rallied to take the lead in the final minutes.

That victory launched the surprising 3-0 start to the season for the young Sixers.

Not to take anything away from that victory, but the Heat played without point guard Dwyane Wade. They also played the night prior against the Chicago Bulls in a game that lasted more than two-and-a-half hours. The Heat didn’t use any of that as an excuse, but don’t think for a second they don’t remember what happened.

2. Bucking history
Looking back at the Sixers’ recent history against the Heat is nothing short of amazing. The opening night victory was the Sixers’ first in the regular season since 2009 after 15 straight losses. Throw in the five-game playoff series in 2010-11 and the Sixers are 2-19 against the Heat dating back to the start of the 2009-10 season.

It’s not like the Heat simply got lucky or rode a hot streak, either. They just have been that much better than the Sixers.

However, since the Heat entered the league in 1988, they have faced the Sixers exactly 100 times. The Sixers lead the all-time series, 51-49.

3. MCW vs. D-Wade
Michael Carter-Williams put together one of the great all-time NBA debuts against the Heat on Oct. 30. With 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds, Carter-Williams did just about everything and then some. The double-double is the first by a Sixer in his debut since Maurice Cheeks did it in his first game in 1978. The 22 points is the most by a player making his debut since Allen Iverson scored 30 in 1996.

The 22-12-9-7 combination is one achieved only twice previously by anyone in NBA history. Quick point guard Ricky Green had a 26-12-9-7 for the Utah Jazz in 1982, and Spurs guard Johnny Moore put up a 26-13-9-11 in 1985.

Meanwhile, Carter-Williams’ nine steals tied a franchise record, and was the most steals in an NBA debut since it became an official stat in 1973.

The rookie did all of that while committing just one turnover.

He also did it with perennial All-Star Wade watching from the bench.

Yes, Carter-Williams has faced a veritable who’s who of great NBA point guards in his first season. After the game against the Heat, the rookie faced off against John Wall, Derrick Rose, Steph Curry, Wall again and then back-to-backs against Kyrie Irving.

Then came Tony Parker, Jrue Holiday and Deron Williams to end the cavalcade of All-Stars.

Still, Carter-Williams missed Wade, who is quietly averaging 19.2 points and nearly five rebounds and assists per game. This one could be the rookie’s toughest test yet.

4. Finding a spark
Sometimes it’s a little thing that gets a team going. Though the Sixers committed 24 turnovers and sent the Bobcats to the line for 26 free throws leading to 51 points Wednesday, they won the game on Thad Young’s last-second three-pointer.

To that point in the game Young had struggled on the offensive end and was the only starter not to shoot at least 50 percent from the field.

But in the end, Young saved the day with a big shot.

5. Injuries
Lavoy Allen has missed the last three games with a strained right calf. He will be a game-time decision.

Arnett Moultrie is inching closer to a return from left ankle surgery. He will be a game-time decision.

Nerlens Noel (knee) and Jason Richardson (knee) are out.

For Miami Chris Andersen missed Wednesday night’s game in Washington with body soreness. Mario Chalmers also missed the game in Washington with Achilles tendonitis.

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

The Sixers (22-35) finish off a back-to-back set out of the All-Star break when they the New York Knicks (23-35) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Starting out strong
So much for having nine days off and players in new roles negatively impacting the team.

The Sixers stormed into the home stretch of the season with a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Sixers, as they knocked off the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed.

Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on the game than Richaun Holmes. The backup big man notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-best five blocks.

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

2. Young guns
Injuries will prevent another juicy clash between Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but there will still be two other young players to keep an eye Saturday night.

Dario Saric and Willy Hernangomez have been two of the most impressive rookies this season, especially since the calendar flipped to February.

Saric has averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 boards and 2.2 assists this month. He's coming off a 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Wizards for his third straight double-double.

Hernangomez has put up 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a night in February. The center, who was actually drafted 35th overall in 2015 by the Sixers before being traded, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Saturday's clash could go a long way toward determining Rookie of the Month honors for the East.

3. A Rose is but a Rose
Derrick Rose will never be considered among the league's top assist men. That's simply not his style of play.

When the oft-injured Rose has his game flowing, it starts with scoring, particularly against the Sixers.

In 18 career matchups with the Sixers, Rose has averaged 20.7 points. He's also put up 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in those contests.

Rose scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the Knicks' first meeting with the Sixers this season back on Jan. 12.

That typically would have been enough to say he won the point guard battle that night, but T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beating jumper stole the show in the Sixers' 98-97 win.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Joakim Noah (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Porzingis (ankle) is out for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win over the Knicks in their last meeting snapped a five-game skid in the series.

• The Sixers had 28 assists in their win over the Wizards. They are eighth in the NBA with 23.6 assists a night.

• The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in rebounding with 46.0 boards per game.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me, I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still, I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.