To think this actually went better than expected.
The Miami Heat beat the Sixers by 24 points, and yet this could have been so much worse. The Sixers did not play a perfect game last night (more on that in a moment), but they played pretty darn well, especially in the first half, but the final score reflects that little. The talent gap is just that much at the moment, and it was painful to watch for Sixers fans.
30 seconds into the game, my first sentence for this recap read, "Spencer Hawes opened the game with a goaltend, and things only went downhill from there." But such a lede would be somewhat unfair and not entirely true as despite the final score, the Sixers started out playing well and were on top for most of the first quarter thanks to some hot shooting.
The Sixers were led by Nick Young, who was absolutely on fire from the field in the opening stanza. But it was not all sunshine for The Man With All The Swag, as after Hawes rejected LeBron James (!!!!) with authority (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), Young ignored a wide open Jrue Holiday and Dorell Wright in favor of passing a covered Evan Turner who proceeded to waste a possession on what ended up being a 5-on-4 after LeBron had been taken out of the play by Hawes's rejection.
The Heat's talent superiority would rear its head in the second quarter, though, as they would take a 10-point lead into the break. The Sixers were not even playing that poorly in the first half. Evan did a respectable job on LeBron, the Sixers and Swaggy hit their first half shots, and at no point did it ever feel like they were getting blown out the building. The problem for the Sixers is that they are so inferior to Miami talent-wise that even when they were playing as well as they could in that first half, the Heat still led by 9 at the break.
This talent gap would show itself even more in the second half, which the Miami Heat dominated. LeBron finished with 16 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds to score himself another triple double. Dwayne Wade led the Heat in scoring with 33 points on 14-18 shooting.
While the Sixers never had any real chance of pulling an upset in this game, they still managed to do annoying stupid things.
For starters, what does Arnett Moultrie have to do to get reasonable minutes? It'd be annoying but somewhat more understandable if Andrew Bynum and Thaddeus Young were healthy, but they are not, and the Sixers starting big men are Lavoy Allen at PF and Hawes at C. Moultrie, even as a rookie, is competent enough to not be embarrassed playing on a team with Allen and Hawes, and even when Hawes and Allen are having a no good lousy day, Wright gets minutes at the 4 before Moultrie ever does. Moultrie did not see the court until there were seven minutes left in the game, a point in which the game was no longer in any doubt.
Look, no one is saying Moultrie is near high quality at the moment. But in seven minutes (of admittedly garbage time), Moultrie managed three rebounds. Hawes managed two rebounds in 25 minutes. I've said my peace on judging a player solely based on rebounds (see Vucevic, Nikola), but a young Moultrie not getting minutes while Hawes hogs minutes and stinks up the joint in a lost season is inexcusable. There is no rational explanation for Doug not giving Moultrie meaningful minutes. If it was not painfully obvious before Doug Collins is not someone who should be coaching a team trying to develop talent on a rebuilding team with an injured superstar, it is quickly becoming so now.
Despite the fact that the Sixers free throws problems are nothing new, they continue to be a major problem. The Sixers ultimately finished the game with 10 free throws, 8 eight less than Miami, but what really stood out last night was that for the first 30+ minutes of last night's game, the Sixers literally did not make one trip to the line. Sixers players may never be given a benefit of the doubt someone like LeBron might get, but the Sixers are 29th in free throw attempts this season. That's more than just not getting superstar calls. Chris Vito tweeted during the game that the Sixers have attempted 863 free throws this season. The Oklahoma City Thunder meanwhile have made 366 more free throws this season than the Sixers have even attempted. Yikes. The problem lays both with Doug's offensively conservative philosophy and the unwillingness of some players to attack the basket when given the chance.
Tonight's loss leaves the Sixers three losses behind Milwaukee for the 8-seed in the playoffs. This can be deceiving, though, as the Sixers have a difficult schedule ahead including three more games against the Heat, and an end of season stretch that sees them play 12 of their last 16 games on the road that includes a West Coast road trip. Even if a 100% healthy and ready to go Bynum returns to the Sixers tomorrow, this is a mountain to climb. As it is, they will have suffer more without him and without Thad Young as they continue their chase for as good a draft pick as possible tomorrow at Madison Square Garden where they will take on a New York Knicks team currently sitting atop first place in the Atlantic Division.
For a Miami perspective on tonight's game, please check out Hot Hot Hoops.