The game had such a promising start. The crowd was bananas (that's a good thing), Spencer Hawes was delivering, and the Sixers jumped out to a 9-0 lead before you could even have time to check if your oatmeal was done. The Heat finally got themselves on the board after two Zydrunas Ilgauskas put backs on offensive rebounds, which ended up being the story of the outcome.
Unlike Game 2, the Sixers played themselves a competitive game... for the most part. Rarely relinquishing the lead, the Sixers took a two point lead (52-50) into the half behind a monstrous second quarter from Elton Brand. EB was finding his openings in his comfortable (like, TempurPedic comfortable) mid-range area and delivering seamlessly. During that span, every time the Heat made a comeback effort, the Sixers seemed to hit a big shot to keep the lead (Jodie Meeks getting his first bucket on a big 3 after a little Heat run).
The Heat jumped out early in the second half going on a 6-0 run within the first minute. At the time, I thought it was about that time where the Heat took over the game. To my surprise, the Sixers answered right back going a big time 12-0 run that I honestly didn't think they had in them. Within that time, Elton continued to add on to this total point tally from the same areas he was hitting from in the second quarter. With a Louis Williams brilliant drive towards the end of the quarter, the Sixers took a 2 point lead into the fourth. Could they really stick with these guys and snag a game to hang tight in the series?
The simple answer; no. The Sixers struggles on the defensive glass were exposed immensely, especially in the fourth quarter (Chris Bosh got 3 offensive boards on one possession in said quarter). Big Z accrued 8 total rebounds for the game, all 8 being on the offensive glass. The Sixers ended the game with 23 defensive rebounds, the Heat had 20 offensive boards. That's just absolutely embarrassing if you ask me. Chances are, you will not win if you have 3 more defensive rebounds than the other team has on the other side.
The lack of star power certainly presented itself for the Sixers during the fourth quarter as well. They were able to muster up just 4 points within the first 6 minutes, as all players looked hesitant during that time. Now it's no secret the Heat have go to players, and they proved it right then and there. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took their games to another level towards the end getting out in transition, getting to the basket, and also the foul line (22 free throws total combined). It was prevalent that the Sixers needed a guy to take over the game for them. Jrue Holiday showed flashes that he might do it, but it never came to fruition. Andre Iguodala certainly gave an attempt, but with ill-advised jumpers that we've seen time and time again.
The Sixers gave a fantastic effort but as Doug Collins said post game, "I'm a moral person, but I don't like moral victories." The 2010-2011 is one loss away from ending and there's no evidence to show that it won't happen on Sunday. The Sixers continue to get killed on the boards, struggle with offensive sets in the fourth, and let's face it, are playing against a team that 2 of the best players in the NBA are on; chances of Flyers vs. Bruins comeback are not likely at all.
Some individual observations after the jump.
- Jrue Holiday's jumper was silky smooth tonight. He had a few bad shot attempts early but settled down later and was able to drop 20 points on just 13 shots. It's a beautiful thing when Jrue realizes he can abuse Mike Bibby on the offensive end, which he did wonderfully tonight. Not only did he score, but he also got his point guard game on. Against just two turnovers in 42 minutes of play (impressive!), Jrue totaled 8 assists. Yes he's being defended by Bibby and Mario Chalmers, but it's hard to ignore the performances that Jrue has given us in Game 1 and Game 3. Oh yea, he's only 20.
- Iguodala continued to struggle to score the basketball. He had a few opportunities to deliver on catch and shoot 3 balls, which he normally can hit on a consistent basis but just couldn't get it done tonight (other than his first attempt of the game). Then came the off-balanced elbow pull-up jumpers off the dribble, which, yea, we all know how those turn out. While he couldn't score for himself, Dre did an excellent job distributing, leading the Sixers in assists. That's the one thing you know you'll always get with him, if he's not scoring, he'll set someone else up to do it.
- Like I previously mentioned, Brand's mid-range game was on point tonight. It was so refreshing to see him get those attempts off that were missing from his repertoire in Game 2. Although he worked wonders on offense, he was giving Chris Bosh way too much room on the defensive end. Bosh missed his first few attempts, but came back strong and took advantage of all the leeway Brand so graciously gift wrapped for him. He did a much better job on the glass than he did in the previous two games, putting 11 of them on the stat sheet. Impressive number, but his defensive rebounding percentage wasn't exactly encourageable (4.3% if I did the calculations right - I probably didn't).
- Thaddeus Young's struggles against Joel Anthony continued. It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that Thad connected on his first made field goal on his eighth attempt. It appeared he was apprehensive about getting into the lane, possibly fear cause by Anthony swatting so many of his shots last game. He continued to take jumpers that have shown to not be his forte. Where Thad excels is around the basket, and when he can't get there, nights like these can be expected.
- I'm torn as to what I thought about Hawes tonight. He was pretty aggressive on the offensive end, getting the ball in position to score whether in the paint or just outside the foul line. The bad part was his less than desirable rebounding effort. Yes he grabbed 6 in 22 minutes, but there were many opportunities that wasted, specifically one where he put on hand on the ball and Bibby snagged it right from under him. Not to mention many, if not most, of Z's offensive boards came at the expense of Hawes. The Spence giveth, and the Spence taketh away.
- According to many commenters, Marreese Speights was less than enthusiastic on the bench tonight, which is pretty odd.
- A signal for a Heat inbounding play is LeBron flexing his bicep. Chalmers acknowledged the play call by doing the same. What ever happened to naming plays after colleges?