It's hard to imagine a more improbable regular season, single game upset than the one the 76ers nearly pulled off last night.
The Heat had won 19 straight games heading into the game against Philadelphia, 2 of which came at the hands of the 76ers. They hadn't lost a regular season game against the 76ers since before LeBron James arrived.
The 76ers had lost 12 of their previous 14. Jrue Holiday was struggling, having shot 29.8% over his previous 4 games.
The last time these two teams had met only a week ago, it was a 1 point game heading into the 4th quarter before Miami was able to pull away for good. So the fact that the 76ers were down only 5 points heading into the 4th quarter, closing the gap on what was a 12 point deficit at half time wasn't a complete surprise.
But then Miami started the 4th quarter on a 6-2 run, and you figured they were ready to put some distance between themselves and the 76ers. But the home team clawed back. A trio of three's from Holiday, one from Wright and a Hawes jumper later and the 76ers were up on the seemingly invincible Miami Heat with only 5:31 left to play, a lead they would push to 3 moments later.
Then, there was Jrue Holiday dunking on LeBron James to tie the game at 91 with 1:20 left o play. Yeah, that happened.
But one telling stat was at the free throw line. The Heat made 10 free throws during the final quarter, the Sixers didn't even attempt one. In the 3 games the Sixers and Heat have played, the Heat have significantly more made free throws (48) than the Sixers have attempts (33).
So while the Sixers were busy dribbling it off legs or missing open layups during the final 2 minutes of the game the Heat were sinking free throw after free throw. It's hard to win against a great team when you're at such a disadvantage.
And don't read that the wrong way -- The 76ers are such a historically bad team at getting to the line on their own merit, and the Heat are tremendous at getting to the line based on their own merit. Might there be a call or two that I don't agree with? Sure. But aggressive teams get calls, pull-up jump shooting teams don't.
All in all though, it was a tremendous game. One of the best and most entertaining of the year, despite the loss.
But there was absolutely no way I was cheering for a loss last night. A win against that team, on such a historic path? With Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young playing the way they did? With the level of excitement, perhaps the first time all year I've felt that building truly rock? No way.
Jrue Holiday made so many big plays down the stretch it wasn't funny. 21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists against that team, on that stage? From big three pointers to dunks to big steals, he was great, even if he had a play or two he'd like back.
Speaking of great, Thaddeus Young's 3rd quarter was truly special to watch. Thad finished the quarter with 16 points and 5 rebounds just in the third. He was everywhere, and got the 76ers back in the game.
"I think we did a better job of moving the ball in the second half," Young said after the game. "It was all about moving the ball and getting everybody involved in the game, and just making those extra plays."
"I thought we executed, got some good shots at the end, and just couldn't quite find a way to get over the top."
Nationally, the story of the night was the Heat winning their 20th straight, which ties the 3rd longest streak in NBA history.
Locally, the story of the night was how unexpectedly exciting that game was.
For me, last night served as a reminder of what we're shooting for. The atmosphere in that building, the great plays, the excitement. Standing on the edge of your seat for every made three and throwdown. That's what we're building towards.
Last offseason, management made the decision that our relevance was not sustainable. I agreed with that. Here's to hoping that management is able to find a way to return to that level and be able to sustain it, because last night was too much darned fun.
Odds and Ends
- Evan Turner continues to drive me nuts. He overall played well. He hit some tough shots early, and was driving to the hoop like a man possessed late. If he did that regularly, he'd be a positive on a nightly basis. But that part in the middle of the game, where he had multiple possessions where he was shooting pull-up, contested jump shots with 18+ seconds left on the shot clock? Happens far too often.
- Dorell Wright had another game where he made a positive impact. That sequence in the fourth where he made a three, forced a steal, hten dunked in transition pulled the 76ers from 9 down to 4 down in seconds. I still maintain that if you try that Jrue / Bynum thing again, Dorell can be a key contributor and a very valuable addition to that pairing.
- Nick Young had his first game back since missing 7 with an ankle sprain. He played 5 ineffective minutes in the first half, then didn't see the floor in the second half. He was definitely rusty.
- Speaking of not seeing the floor in the second half, Arnett Moultrie similarly played 5 ineffective first half minutes, then didn't see the floor in the second half. On a normal night, I'd disagree with that. But in such a competitive game against the Heat, I can understand trying something different, and that ended up being Lavoy Allen in the second half.
- But man, one thing I can tell you is I bet Moultrie makes that wide open layup Spencer Hawes missed with 23 seconds remaining that would have made it a 1 point game. That was a beautifully drawn up play, Doug just had the wrong personnel in to finish it.
- 6 points (2-5 from the field) with 5 rebounds in nearly 23 minutes? I told you not to get fooled by Spencer's good game. A positive contribution from a starting center and the 76ers probably win that game last night.
Post game interviews
Post game interviews with Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young