The Sixers came to play against what figures to be their first round opponent once the playoffs start in a few weeks. Getting into passing lanes and moving the ball well in half-court sets, Doug Collins and his boys were up 7 after the first quarter.
Then Dwyane Wade started taking advantage of the defense and didn't stop all night. Using a bevvy of dribble-drives to set up himself and his teammates, Wade finished with 39 points on 26 shots, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 5 blocks. Kid went off. Sixers fans were worried about Collins putting Jodie Meeks on him, and that worrying was not misplaced. Wade took it to Jodie, using his powerful upper body and quickness to wreak havoc in the lane. When Doug switched to Jrue Holiday, Louis Williams, and even Andres Nocioni, the result was predictably not much better.
Wade doesn't get shut down often, but when he does, it's because his defender is giving him the outside shot and the other team is crowding the lane. The Sixers tried to play him straight, and he responded by getting 32 points either at the rim or at the foul line. Not gonna work, brother. He, along with LeBron James, combined to go to the line 20 times, making 17, and putting the Sixers in foul trouble all night.
Even despite all this, Philly took a 5 point lead into the fourth quarter. But as has become custom when playing against superior opponents, they couldn't close the book on Miami and were outscored by a whopping 17 points in the 4th quarter. And this time the balanced scoring attack of the Sixers could not keep up with the Chimaera-like three-headed monster of Miami.
More gems after the jump.
- Elton Brand could do very little on the night. He did a bad job boxing out Chris Bosh and could not keep him away from the basket all night. 18 of Bosh's 20 points were from the rim or the foul line. Too many easy buckets, too many rebounds, and too many people crashing the boards for the Sixers to handle.
- The rebounding was really where the Sixers lost this game. A concern for many has been their lack of a great rebounder to control the glass and against Miami, they couldn't keep out three of the most athletic players in the game. Miami got 15 offensive rebounds to the Sixers' 7, winning the overall category 49-31. Bosh, Wade, and LeBron each recorded double-digits in rebounds and did a fantastic job of getting to every ball that came off. Andre Iguodala will usually counter that with his own jumping ability, but with his injured knee, his rebounding has taken a serious hit. That's cause for concern heading into the playoffs.
- Iguodala, Brand, and Jodie Meeks each had considerably forgettable games on both ends of the floor. Though Jodie hit a few shots to electrify the readers here, he went cold for a long stretch and finished with a very hollow 14 points -- something he hasn't done lately when it comes to the other stats. With those three not scoring efficiently, it's hard for the Sixers to stick with a team with as much firepower as Miami.
Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams were once again terrific at times and obnoxious at others. Thad was the Sixers' best rebounder on the night, but couldn't hang with anybody on the other end and got into foul trouble, which limited his availability the rest of the night. He finished with 15 and 8. Lou was Lou. He had his BOSS moments like an off-balance three at the end of the first quarter, and a few nice drives to the basket, but in the fourth quarter, he couldn't guard anyone and committed a few egregious turnovers that set the Sixers way back. He is what he is. An offensive weapon for minutes at a time, then a complete liability on defense and sometimes on offense when he throws off the rhythm so he can dribble around and jack up a 25-footer. This team would be less successful without him, but he is certainly an enigma.
Spencer Hawes was one of the many who got into foul trouble, but when he played, he performed rather well. My favorite was a lob from Elton that Spence finished easily -- I'm a sucker for interior passing. And though it's not exactly a feat, he did a nice job on Erick Dampier and Joel Anthony on the other end. Jrue Holiday had a relatively under-the-radar game, but he chipped in a few nice takes with some occasionally good defense and finished with a satisfactory line of 13, 6, 3, and 2. Would've liked to see more on Mike Bibby, but D-Wade was on him sometimes so it's forgivable.
- And that brings us to Evan Turner. Evan, Evan, Evan. Just a few days ago, Doug Collins went on record as saying he's going to limit Evan's minutes in exchange for more to veterans Andres Nocioni. Well he did just that in the first half, bringing the second overall pick in for a grand total of THREE SECONDS. I'm in the process of writing something bigger about this subject, but in terms of this game, you're facing a team with two of the best wing players in the generation, and you're gonna throw Jodie Meeks on one? A very tired, very banged up Nocioni? Even Lou 60K Williams? Why? Because they have spent more time on an NBA team? Because they hit puberty first, they have a better chance at defending these tremendous athletes? With an ailing Iguodala, playing Turner only 8 minutes against this team is ignorant, criminal, and probably cost the Sixers the win. Marreese Speights didn't play either.
- On a LB community note, reader RickoT claims that the problem is not defense, but offense. Apparently giving up 111 points, 34 of which were in the final quarter ain't no thang. Play Lou more! bucket=bucket=bucket! stop=0
- In my preview, I said the Sixers should double-team and force the other guys on the wings to knock down shots and beat them, rather than let Wade and LeBron go wild. Well, they went wild. And people not making over 14 million combined to score just 20 points for the Heat. The three that are went off for 91. Well done.
- Because the Knicks lost their 5th game in a row, the Sixers still hold a 2 game lead on the 6th seed. But they're now a full 3 games behind the Hawks for the 5-spot with 10 games to go and Atlanta holding the tie-breaker. Miami, meanwhile, is now just a half game behind Boston for the 2-seed. There could definitely be some shifting going on at the top of the standings and there's a good chance the Sixers end up seeing the semi-reeling Celtics in the first round. The Sixers magic number remains at 3.
Next up for our boys in red is a Sunday matinee at home with the same Sacramento Kings they destroyed only a week earlier. Enjoy the college ball today, and keep up with Atlanta, New York, Charlotte, and Milwaukee -- all of whom are in action tonight. Check out Peninsula is Mightier for their take.
Good effort by the Sixers, but a failure to close keeps them from bringing home a huge win.