Looking back on it, last night's 106-87 loss in Miami was an exercise in waiting for the other shoe to drop, with a scoring trend line that resembled nothing so much as the leaderboard in a cycling stage race. The Heat, who did not dress Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade, would jump out to a lead with LeBron James in the lineup, then the Sixers would reel them back in. This process repeated itself over and over through the first three quarters and change, until Miami finally pushed the lead back to double digits in the fourth quarter.
To call the early stages of the game "low-energy" would be an understatement. The Heat didn't even take a free throw until the second half. Miami and the Sixers are two of the slower-paced teams in the league anyway, but there were a lot of long, lobbed passes instead of quick penetration and neither team played particularly spirited defense until the fourth quarter, when Miami held to 11 points a Sixers team that had scored 30 in the third quarter and 28 in the second.
LeBron toyed with Damien Wilkins and, at times, Evan Turner, making 27 points in 30 minutes look like a walk in the park. Rashard Lewis shot 6-of-10, including two three-pointers to kick off Miami's fourth quarter attack. He ended with 14 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. With Bosh in street clothes, Chris Andersen corralled 15 rebounds in 26 minutes, though he looked like a frightening incompetent on the offensive end, which helped the Sixers grab a couple key stops in the middle portions of the game.
For the Sixers' part, their hanging in there as long as they did is even more commendable considering that nobody in blue had a particularly good shooting night--Jrue Holiday scored a team-high 18 and it took him 17 field goal attempts to manage it. Though given his performance in recent weeks, we're now at a point where we're getting excited about the Sixers' best player shotting 7-for-17 with six assists against five turnovers. Evan Turner contributed a relatively anonymous 32 minutes.
If one player had a good game, it was Dorrell Wright, which might seem a little weird to say given his stat line, but he was all over the court, grabbing three offensive rebounds and making himself available for the corner three, which his teammates found him for on several occasions. The catch, of course, is that while he attempted three of those, a couple of them in key moments, he didn't make any, so while he played defense and crashed the boards with the tenacity of a housecat that wants you to stop what you're doing and feed it, he ended up with only 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting, with a lamentable 1-for-7 from outside the arc.
The big news, of course, is that with Milwaukee's 100-83 victory over Toronto last night, the Sixers can no longer make the playoffs, which means that, for the first time in the Doug Collins era, the Sixers won't spend the second half of April serving as cannon fodder for a much better opponent, with no hope of advancement except maybe the other team's best player might cripple himself by jumping up and down.
We'll discuss what missing the playoffs means in the days to come, but for now, let's bask in the certitude that we can say this of the 2012-13 season: It must have been love, but it's over now.