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NBA Playoffs: Sixers Mismatches Vanish Against Heat

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins has a reputation as a man whose teams embrace orthodox play, but among the reasons his team surprised folks around the league--with a 41-41 record after starting 3-13--is a Gonzo style predicated on exploiting mismatches whenever possible. Positional flexibility is part of it: Thaddeus Young can play either forward spot, while Louis Williams can slide between point and shooting guard, and Andre Iguodala can play anywhere from point guard to small forward. Toss in Elton Brand's ability to man the post as a small-ball center and you can see why the Sixers excelled, relative to expectation, this season.

They scarcely could have drawn a tougher first-round opponent, given their style, than the Miami Heat. LeBron James' all-around versatility renders Young ineffective; he can neither defend James at small forward nor Chris Bosh at power forward. Offensively, he's struggled, and offense is his stock-in-trade. Though he's still scoring almost a point every two minutes, he's having to work much harder for his shots, so his shooting percentage has dropped from 54.1 percent in the regular season to 36.5 percent against Miami.

The Heat have similarly flummoxed Iguodala. The Sixers star still contributes in other areas, ranking second in rebounding and first in assists, but he's scoring just 8.8 points per game in the series and shooting 31.6 percent from the floor.

The Sixers may have had an easier time against a more conventional team, like the Boston Celtics or Chicago Bulls, who are less equipped to combat the mismatches Philly used to such great effect during the regular season.

The Sixers trail the Heat, 3-1, in the series, which resumes Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. Comcast SportsNet has the local telecast, with TNT carrying the game nationally.