In the end, the Miami Heat and company were too much for the Sixers to handle.
The Sixers had perhaps their best defensive game of the 4 against the Heat this season, particularly late in the 4th quarter as Iguodala and company locked down and allowed the Sixers to trim the lead to 1.
A 12-0 run by the Sixers midway through the 4th quarter made the game interesting. A pair of Jrue Holiday three pointers were sandwiched between three Thaddeus Young scores as the Sixers made a game of it.
The game started off similarly, with suffocating defense combined with great offensive execution allowing the Sixers to jump out to a 31-19 first quarter lead. That lead was canceled out by a 35-18 second quarter advantage by the Heat which saw them shoot 14 free throws in the quarter. That, combined with a Sixers offensive dry spell in the second and third quarter fueled by the Heat zone defense and a slowed down tempo put the Sixers in a big hole.
A few thoughts after the jump. I'll try not to complain too much about the refs. Before that, take a look at ESPN giving the Sixers absolutely no love...nor even acknowledging their existence (click to enlarge).
- The refs were bad, and completely killed the flow of the game during the second quarter. 39 free throw attempts to 15 is absurd, especially considering the Sixers had more attempts at the rim (25 attempts for the Sixers, compared to 16 for MIami), and more from 3-9 feet (10 to 9). Anytime LeBron got into the paint, he was whistled. The worst may have been Wade's and-1 where he kicked out the leg to draw contact, which was a huge play in the game.
- I thought the constant whistles in the second (whether deserved or not) killed the Sixers offensive flow almost as much as the Miami zone, and certainly helped the effectiveness of Miami's zone. The Sixers, while not as fast break oriented as in years past, still push the ball to get into their offensive sets early, and weren't able to do that when taking the ball out after a made free throw, and allowed the Miami zone to get set.
- Overall, outside of free throws, I thought the Sixers did about as good as you could have hoped on Wade and LeBron, who combined to shoot 12-31 from the field. Iguodala I thought in particular was spectacular on LeBron. Iguodala's ability to be a pesk defensively was one of my keys to the series, and seeing him defend at a high level gave me a little bit of hope. Many will look at his lack of personal scoring, but I feel better about Iguodala now than I did yesterday.
- Early in the day I talked about using Evan Turner on LeBron for stretches, and I thought Turner did a fair job. I was also happy to see it was mostly Iguodala and Turner on LeBron (outside of switches, and down the stretch when Collins put Iguodala on Wade), and when Nocioni and Turner came in at the same time in the first quarter, it was the rookie with defensive duties.
- Meeks and Holiday kept switching on and off on Wade, and neither of them were really all that effective, particularly in the first half. Defending Wade's going to be the biggest challenge in the series, and it'll be interesting to see what adjustments Collins makes.
- Thad's hustle was great. Really, it was tremendous. And his scoring late in the game gave the Sixers the spark they needed. But they really needed more out of him on the defensive end, particularly on the glass. With the talent differential between the Heat and Sixers, they can't afford to give up a 35.7% offensive rebounding rate to that team, particularly not when they're getting to the line at that rate, and Thad was a big part of that. Also, he took far too much long jumpers. Thad was 7-11 at the rim, 2-5 from 3-9 feet, and 0-4 from beyond 16 feet.
- I'm not sure why, but it seems whenever Elton Brand has a good rhythm going, we go away from him. I think Brand can have continued success against this MIami front line, and we need to work harder to get him shots.
- Despite the refs, the Sixers had a chance to make this a completely different game at the end, and missed a lot of opportunities. Thad missing two free throws, Elton's missed wide open jumper at the free throw line and Jrue's botched fast break could have completely changed the outcome of this game, and when you're fighting an uphill battle down 13 in the 4th, you can't come up empty in those possessions and still hope to win.
- On the plus side, the Sixers did a really good job of taking care of the ball (8% turnover rate), and Jodie Meeks found his lost shooting touch (2-3 from three), two keys to the series.