The Sixers were as red hot as an NBA team could be coming into tonight's outing against arguably the best team in the league, the Miami Heat. After already beating the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls this week, this was a game that every Sixers fan, whether it's Mike Levin from Liberty Ballers or Mike Levin of West End Youth Center fame, was drooling over. The Sixers fed off the loudest crowd I've heard for a regular season in a long time but ultimately could not muster up enough to defeat the reigning eastern conference champion Miami Heat.
The fourth quarter proved to be the Sixers' downfall tonight. Throughout the entire first half and parts of the third quarter, the Sixers were utilizing ball movement and team offense to set up open looks, and it was working as well I've seen it the entire year. The offense was fluid, the Sixers were getting aggressive play from Jrue Holiday (what we've been asking for all year), Thaddeus Young was in ultra-crafty mode, and distributors were finding Jodie Meeks in rhythm for open jumpers. All of a sudden, Doug Collins and his team decided the best way to make a comeback against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris bosh would be to run isolation play after isolation play. As we've seen on countless occasions, iso plays from the Sixers lead to forced and contested shots early in the shot clock that predictably enough don't find their way in the net.
The Heat were able to capitalize on the Sixers' fourth quarter offensive philosophy and pranced off to an insurmountable 27-8 run. Thanks to a takeover from LeBron, fast-breaking off Sixer misses, and knocking down an array of 3-pointers, the Heat never looked back on their way to a 20-point win in Philadelphia.
The biggest question I have coming out of this game for you guys is, does this loss hang on the shoulders of Doug Collins? It's no secret that Doug has been a great asset and made this team into a top 4 eastern conference team, but he has his flaws. With how well the Sixers were playing on the offensive end during the first half, what inspired him to give the go-ahead to change to isolation style? He knows this team better than just about anyone, why couldn't he realize that isolation does not suit this team one bit? I love you Dougie, but because of the style you switched to in the closing quarter, I've got to give the bulk of this loss to you.
More observations that have nothing to do with iso-disgust after the jump.
Even in defeat, there is always room to find some positives and this game certainly had its share for the Sixers. All season we've been begging for our point guard Jrue to attack the basket, get to the cup, get some points at the rim. Jrue must have finally heard our outcries because he was in all-out attack mode for a majority of the game. Yes he only had 11 points on 13 shots, but most of those misses came on pretty good looks that he just wasn't hitting. I loved seeing him get to the basket as often as he did, and if he keeps doing that while his jumper is on, we'll all be seeing what we've hoped for. Despite him going to the rack, Jrue only had two free throw attempts oddly enough coming from a foul on a jump shot he had to force to beat the shot clock. If he keeps this attacking mentality, those free throw numbers are destined to increase.
The Night Shift crew of Thad and Lavoy Allen (nickname yet to be determined) played some hustly (yep, hustly) basketball this evening. If you guys remember, Thad struggled against this Heat squad in the playoffs last year but that fact looked long gone from his memory. Thad was as crafty as you could ever ask for in the lane. Like we've seen so often, he was making quick moves in the paint and fighting for second chance points. Lavoy followed in his path and gave an extra boost to the otherwise underwhelming frontcourt. After every missed shot, there was Lavoy fighting for the rebound. Not only did he give his efforts on the boards, but the Temple grad was knocking down open jumpshots that the Heat were content with him taking. If they're going to give them to you, you better knock them down, and Lavoy had no problem with that.
And last but not least, the all-star to be (we're calling it) Andre Iguodala gave as good of a defensive effort as you could on LeBron James. It wasn't until late in the third that LeBron got himself going, and even then it was sparked by a couple of long-twos that Dre could do nothing about. He continues to be the leader of this defense, and rarely fails to impress. To add on to that effort, Dre gave what was clearly the Sixers highlight of the night (and he might have had two if the buzzer beater to end the 3rd got off just a smidge earlier). After Dre snagged the ball on the defensive end, he drove the length of the floor and threw down a thunderous slam that ignited the crowd and caused me to spit out the greek yogurt (Chobani, of course) I was eating at the time. I'll be looking to get that video uploaded on here as soon as a good one gets on the YouTubes.
The Worst (in bullet points, because that's all they deserve):
- Like I said 2 billion times earlier, iso.
- The starting froncourt of Elton Brand and Tony Battie. Battie, per usual, looked lost and couldn't hold on to a single pass that went his way. Brand took just three shots and wasn't close on any of them. For the second straight game, his mid-range jumper was coming up way short, barely nudging the front of the rim.
- Louis Williams collecting 13 points on 17 shots and just for good measure, a horrendous fadeaway contested jumper midway through the fourth-quarter with 18 seconds left on the shot clock.
The fourth quarter wasn't pretty, or even moderately good-looking (I'd give it about a 2 on the scale) and ultimately caused the Sixers to have no chance at competing in the end. For the second time this year, they fell to the Heat by 20 or more points. Like CEO Adam Aron said on twitter, the beautiful thing about sports is that there's always tomorrow and that rings true for the Sixers who travel to Atlanta for the second leg of a back-to-back against the Hawks.
Enjoy your Friday night guys, and let's get back at it tomorrow night.