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Back in the playoffs for the first time in six years Authentic Oren Burks Jersey , the Philadelphia 76ers got a bit of a pick-me-up on Thursday as they prepared for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup with the Miami Heat at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

“We had a nice team dinner, went over the game plan, shared a message from Julius Erving, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson, exchanged some stories, some well swishes, and we wake up this morning and reset the game plan,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “They understand the magnitude of this time of year.”

It would be understandable if at least a few of the Sixers players didn’t.

The last time third-seeded Philadelphia won 50 regular-season games — the 2000-01 season — Ben Simmons was 4 years old. His backup, No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz, was 2, and he turned 3 while the 76ers were in the midst of their postseason run to the NBA Finals that season.

It hasn’t been 18 years since the 76ers started “The Process,” though it may have felt that way. But even in this better-than-anticipated season, the team feels excited and prepared for its first playoff run since 2012.

Even the absence of star young center Joel Embiid — who, Brown confirmed Wholesale Chukwuma Okorafor Jersey , will miss the beginning of the playoffs as he recovers from a broken orbital bone — is doing little to dampen Philadelphia’s spirits.

“We prepare the same way we’ve been preparing the last seven or so games without him,” said Simmons, who has averaged a triple-double over the last month. “Stick with our defense, stick with our offense. We’re ready to play; I love stepping up and playing against the best competition.”

Against the sixth-seeded Heat, Embiid’s presence could play a major factor.

Miami has a pair of stout centers in Hassan Whiteside, one of the league’s best defenders, and rookie Bam Adebayo, who is one of the league’s best rebounders per 48 minutes.

“They are tremendous rim protectors,” Brown said. “You better go to jump or you better find perimeter shooters, because anything soft or non-purposeful is very difficult with those two bodies in there.”

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat could turn to Adebayo more against a 76ers squad missing one of the premier post players in the game.

“He certainly brings something that could be needed in this series, which is that energy and physicality under the rim,” Spoelstra said. “This is a big offensive rebounding team and you need more of your best rebounders out there.”

Both teams enter the matchup coming off good Aprils, though the 76ers come in as the hottest team in the NBA with a franchise-best 16 straight wins. Miami ended the regular season winners of five of eight.

“This is a great competition,” Spoelstra said. “You look at our games http://www.redskinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-pernell-mcphee-jersey , we split them 2-2 and we had some crazy games. Both teams had big leads and lost them. This is what you want. Usually the 3-6 matchup is very competitive.”

Neither team dominated the season series, with all four games between the teams taking place during a five-week stretch from early February to early March. Philadelphia won at home, 103-97, on Feb. 2, followed by a 104-102 Miami road win on Feb. 14. The teams met again two weeks later in Miami, with the 76ers scoring a 102-101 win, and the Heat closed out the season series with a 108-99 home win on March 8.

“They played us hard; they were really physical with us, especially down in Miami,” Sixers guard J.J. Redick said. “They run multiple actions on offense so you really have to defend for the whole shot clock. They have a deep roster with a bunch of guys who play hard and play together. It’s a big challenge for us.”

CHICAGO — If Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon had his druthers, his team wouldn’t have played a pair of games Tuesday.

But as the Cubs head into Wednesday’s series finale against the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Maddon certainly won’t complain about having the opportunity to claim a series victory.

How they had to do it, however, is a different story.

The Cubs earned a doubleheader split with a 2-1 nightcap victory after Albert Almora, Jr. Authentic Evgenii Dadonov Jersey , delivered a 10th-inning single. The win came after the Cubs blew a ninth-inning lead in Tuesday’s first game, which the Dodgers rallied to win, 4-3.

Maddon expressed his displeasure with the split doubleheader format ahead of Wednesday’s matinee series finale. After Monday’s game was postponed due to the combination of inclement weather and electrical issues with Wrigley Field’s lights, Tuesday proved to be a long day for everyone involved.

“I don’t like it,” Maddon said Tuesday, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. To be here for a noon game and then a 7 o’clock game, that’s wrong. I don’t think there’s one player, manager, coach who thinks it’s a good idea.”

Maddon added: “I’m not crying. It’s just true. So it works for both sides. The Dodgers have to do the same thing. I’m not just talking about us. I’d just prefer a different method over the split doubleheader to appease when the game was rained out like it was (Monday) night.”

Maddon voiced his opinion ahead of Tuesday’s rescheduled series opener in which Cubs reliever Justin Wilson surrendered a two-out, two-run single in the ninth inning. Wilson pitched in place of closer Brandon Morrow, who was unavailable for Tuesday’s doubleheader due to back spasms. The Cubs didn’t make Morrow’s condition public until after Tuesday’s first game when Maddon said he was holding out Morrow for precautionary reasons. Morrow told reporters he considered his availability to be day-to-day.

After offense came at a premium in Tuesday’s second game, Wednesday’s showdown has all the makings of a pitcher’s duel.

Jon Lester (8-2, 2.28 ERA) takes the mound for the series finale looking to extend what has been a successful first half of the season. Lester has won four straight starts and has only allowed a pair of runs in three starts in June. Lester is 2-3 in seven career starts against the Dodgers.

The Dodgers will counter with Ross Stripling, who will take the mound with eyes set on his seventh straight victory. Stripling (6-1 Marquez Valdes-Scantling Color Rush Jersey , 1.76 ERA) hasn’t lost since April 30 and has struck out at least six in each of his last seven starts. Over his last six starts, Stripling has struck out 47 and walked just two.

Stripling, who will make his first career start against the Cubs on Wednesday, has taken over the role as the Dodgers ace in the place of injured Clayton Kershaw. His strong start has made him a strong contender for a place on the National League All-Star team.

“You never know if you’ll have another chance in a six-, eight-, 10-year career to make an All-Star game,” Stripling said recently, according to the Loss Angeles Times. “I want to go out there and do my best to try and get there because it would be pretty cool.”

Stripling has the vote of teammate Matt Kemp.

“He needs to be in there,” Kemp said, according to the Times. “That boy is pitching his butt off. It’s fun to watch.”

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