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Heat expecting Sixers to start Ersan Ilyasova, neutralizing Hassan Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside, Ersan Ilyasova

The third-seed Philadelphia 76ers rolled all over the seventh-seed Miami Heat on Saturday night in Game 1 of their first round playoff series, winning in a convincing 130-103 fashion. The Sixers did so without the services of All-Star center Joel Embiid, who has been out with an orbital fracture in his left eye, thanks to their terrific ball movement and historic three-point shooting game (18 three-pointers, the most in a Sixers playoff game in franchise history).

With Game 2 coming up on Monday night, Embiid has cleared the concussion protocol, but has not received full clearance to participate in a 76ers practice, something he’ll have to do before being able to return to the court. That means Philadelphia will be shorthanded, but it may be an advantage for them.

Hassan Whiteside, one of the best big men in the league today, was limited to just 12 minutes of action finishing with two points, six rebounds, and two blocked shots. It wasn’t, however, because he was in foul trouble (only one personal foul on the night). Instead, the 76ers went small and played without a true center for much of the game. Amir Johnson only played 22 minutes, and Sixers saw Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli, Dario Saric, and Ersan Ilyasova playing upwards of 31 minutes. With four terrific shooters surrounding on the court with Simmons, it essentially neutralized the rim-protecting Whiteside, making him nearly un-playable.

While head coach Brett Brown hasn’t officially decided who he’s rolling with, the Heat are fully preparing for Ilyasova to start and, if he doesn’t, at least play a significant amount of time in an attempt to replicate what happened in Game 1.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra says that he plans to utilize Whiteside and his strengths more in Game 2 by giving him more space to operate in the paint and kick out when the defense collapses.

“We are going to try to give a little bit more space,” Spoelstra said, “and give him some more opportunities to attack. But they are pretty committed to containing the paint. So he also has to make some plays to open guys to keep their defense honest.”

The Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers tip off Game 2 of their first round series Monday at 8PM EST on TNT.