Bam Adebayo smiled at the question, or, more to the point, at a ship that has sailed.
No, there will not be popcorn and a rally towel alongside as he takes in Thursday night’s Philadelphia 76ers-Toronto Raptors playoff game.
Watching NBA basketball as a fan isn’t the way it’s done this time of year, the fifth-year Miami Heat center said.
Instead, he said, it’s more like real-time film study.
“At this point, I can’t watch for fun no more,” he said in the wake of the Heat eliminating the Atlanta Hawks 4-1 in the first round of the NBA playoffs, next to take on the winner of the 76ers- Raptors series. “We’re looking ahead. We’re looking for the next [team] to play in the series.
“So just getting locked into the film, looking at both sides in each game.”
With a Philadelphia victory Thursday in Toronto, the 76ers will move on to face the Heat in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals. Otherwise that right will be determined in a Saturday night Game 7 in Philadelphia.
Either way, the next round will open Monday night at FTX Arena.
“We’ll see what happens in that series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Having waited until two days before the start of their opening-round series to learn their opponent, the Heat could wind up in a similar position this time around, as well.
And yet, having gone 2-2 against both teams during the regular season, it’s not as simple as an either/or scenario for the Heat.
The Raptors and 76ers have little in common, making it likely that there is a decided preference at 601 Biscayne.
While the preference of the Heat’s brain trust assuredly will remain privately held, the Sun Sentinel spoke Wednesday to a long-time NBA scout to break down the possibilities when it comes to a better-case scenario.
Q: Who do you believe the Heat would prefer to play?
Scout: “I think they’d prefer to Philly, because they’re wounded. Their confidence is at a low ebb. And if it goes seven, it’s going to be at a lower ebb. [James] Harden hasn’t been very good, and the Heat have guards who can guard him.
“Of course [Joel] Embiid’s going to be a problem, but they’ll have double-teams and schemes. So they’ve got guys who can guard Harden and they have guards who can guard [Tyrese] Maxey. And Philadelphia doesn’t have a bench. I just think, psychologically, they’re weaker.”
Q: So why the belief in Toronto as the superior potential opponent?
A: “I think they’re much better [than Philadelphia] defensively. And they have more weapons, maybe not quite as potent ones, but they have [Pascal] Siakam, [Fred] Van Vleet, [Gary] Trent, even [Chris] Boucher. And [Precious] Achiuwa is playing great. I think you’ve got more guys to worry about with Toronto.
“And if VanVleet is out, they can bring in five guys who are 6-9, which can be devastating defensively. I just think their defense is much stickier.”
Q: Where do you see the Heat’s position of advantage against the 76ers?
A: “Jimmy Butler. Who’s going to stop him? [Tobias] Harris? [Matisse] Thybulle? I’m taking Jimmy Butler every time. [Kyle] Lowry can play Harden to a wash. And off the bench, who’s guards [Tyler] Hero? They’ve got some major liabilities on that Philadelphia bench.”
Q: Where do you see the Heat’s position of advantage against the Raptors?
A: “I would say Bam Adebayo. Even though Toronto has undersized guys who can guard fives, I do think that’s an edge. And Butler can get neutralized because they can put like seven different guys on him; they have so much defensive versatility. And off the bench, Herro has an advantage.”
Q: OK, coaching: Spoelstra against the 76ers’ Doc Rivers?
A: “Spoelstra has the edge. The results speak for themselves. Doc’s blown so many leads. Technically, Erik is creative, he’s got good plays, he throws zone defense in there, he calls good plays off timeouts.”
Q: And Spoelstra against the Raptors’ Nick Nurse?
A: “There you have two kinds of masters. Nick is very creative; their lineups are funky. It’s the unpredictability with them. I’ve seen one game Scottie Barnes started at the five, and I’ve seen him start at point guard. That’s kind a wash.”
Q: If you had to pick the series, how would you lean?
A: “Heat in six over the 76ers. I’d say, and this is tougher, Heat over Toronto in six, but it would be a much tougher six.”