Sixers Go Down Fighting, Lose To Heat 97-91

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NBA Playoffs: Heat Eliminate 76ers After 97-91 Game Five Win

The Sixers gave the Heat absolutely everything they could handle in game five, but it wasn't quite enough Miami defeated Philadelphia 97-91 to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Heat will next face the Boston Celtics, who swept the Knicks in round one.

That series should make it pretty much impossible for Sixers fans to have a rooting interest. Dwyane Wade claimed after the game that "We’re going to be ready, Philly got us ready."

I'm sure the Sixers were so happy to help...

Wade scored 26 points, the last two coming on a completely unnecessary dunk as the Sixers were allowing him to dribble out the clock... but maybe that was just more "getting ready." That said, Wade was complimentary of the Sixers after the game and embraced Doug Collins after the game.

"It was very tough," Wade said. "We knew it was going to be like this."

Wade outshined his more famous teammate Lebron James, who managed just 16 points, after scoring just three at the half. Prior to the game, James had referred to closing out the Sixers as "just finishing our breakfast." The more I hear from the Heat, the more I feel like I could stomach rooting for Boston. Maybe...

The Sixers got 22 points apiece from Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand.

"We fought to the finish," said Doug Collins, "as we said we were going to do."

Collins also said he has "enjoyed the ride all year" and has every intention of returning to the Sixers next season.


Sixers Beat The Heat 86-82 To Avoid Elimination

Facing the prospect of getting swept in their own building, the Sixers showed they had some fight left and weren't ready to go quietly just yet. Lou Williams hit a go ahead three pointer with eight seconds left to lift the Sixers to an 86-82 win over the Miami Heat in game four.

Williams' three was part of a remarkable 10-0 run to end the game that was sparked largely by the trio of Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams and Evan Turner. The poor play of Miami's Dwyane Wade certainly helped as well.

After Turner had hit a floater on the baseline, he grabbed a big defensive rebound on the other end. Jrue Holiday brought the ball up and quickly knocked down a three right over Dwyane Wade. Wade would miss a mid-range jumper at the other end and on the ensuing possession, Lou Williams would spot up over Wade for the go ahead three.

"D-Wade gave me a little room and I was able to knock it down," Williams said. "We’ve always been a team that fought, all the way until the end. I just wanted to give us an opportunity to win the basketball game."

LeBron James had a chance at a game tying shot on a runner in the lane, but it was blocked by Elton Brand and secured by Evan Turner, who then hit two foul shots to seal it for the Sixers. The rookie Turner ended up leading the team with 17 points while also grabbing four boards. Turner also provided that most entertaining sequence of the game (aside from the 10-0 run) that Liberty Ballers summed up superbly.

(Speaking of the 9:00 mark, that's when the best part of the first half occurred. James Jones caught a pass, stepped out of bounds, but still attempted to shoot it. In KG-esque fashion Evan Turner tried to block it. Jones didn't enjoy Turner's gesture too much, so he pushed him, prompting Thaddeus Young to body-bump Jones. A mini-scuffle ensued, the crowd got into it, and Evan Turner proceeded to take his anger out on LeBron James the next possession by taking him off the dribble, giving him a half-spin-shimmy, followed by a sweet fadeaway. The crowd erupted, the game thread filled with goosebumps, and it felt like Turner had finally earned his Sixers stripes. Just a fantastic sequence – one of the best this season.)

Lou Williams scored 17 himself, 11 of which came in the 4th, and Elton Brand turned in a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The series now heads back to Miami for game five on Wednesday.


NBA Playoffs: Sixers Look To Avoid Sweep By Heat

The Sixers will look to save some face and stave off elimination this afternoon as they face the Miami Heat in game four of their first round playoff series. Down 3-0, the Sixers are facing elimination in their own building but they say they aren't ready for the season to end just yet.

"You don’t want to get swept," Elton Brand said. "You don’t want to be out. We’ve had a fun season enjoying each other and we want to keep growing. We don’t want to go home. Nobody wants to go home."

Lou Williams echoed the sentiment, "We realize that Sunday is do or die. It’s either win or go home and we want to stretch this thing out, so I think we will probably have our best effort on Sunday."

I'm not totally sure what is a more disconcerting thought. That the Sixers haven't put forth their "best effort" yet or that maybe they have... It's not as if the Sixers have been completely played off the court, they were in games one and three, but in crunch time the gap between these teams have been painfully evident.

Heading into the fourth quarter of game three, the Sixers were actually up two. However, the Heat went on outscored them 27-19 in the final frame and cruise to a fairly comfortable win. On one hand, they just have no answer for the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade duo, but the Sixers also simply fail to make shots when they need to. Lou Williams said that they "went cold in the fourth in both games" and he's right.

Arguably no one is colder than Andre Iguodala, who is shooting just 28% and averaging just over six points a game in this series. That's nearly half his season averages and easily the worst numbers of his playoff career. If Iguodala had been at his season averages, there's a chance that the Sixers could have been up 2-1 in this series. If they're going to stave off elimination this afternoon, Iguodala is going to have to put points on the board.

The other obvious area of improvement for the Sixers is rebounding. They were beat on the glass in embarrassing fashion in game three as the Heat pulled down 20 offensive rebounds. Elton Brand admitted that part of the reason the Heat dominated on the glass was their defensive scheme.

"When you trap it is a perimeter player. It’s not like the post player where you are trapping him and you can get to the boards," he said. "You are outside the paint and that’s a big guy trapping, so they have an advantage on the boards. We just all have to get in there and gang rebound."

So do you let one guy try to guard Dwyane Wade or LeBron James on the perimeter and play for rebounds or do you give your defenders help? It's an almost impossible decision for Doug Collins.

We'll see what happens at 1 pm on ABC.


Heat Push Sixers To The Brink With 100-94 Win

The Sixers showed a whole lot more fight tonight than they did in game two, but in the result was the same. The Heat defeated the Sixers 100-94 to take a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 series lead. No team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in this round of the NBA playoffs.

The Sixers led for large stretches of the game and stretched that lead to as many as ten in the first half, but Heat's stars took over in the second half as they outshot and out-rebounded the Sixers by a wide margin. Miami dominated on the glass 50-34, but it was most evident on the offensive end. The Heat grabbed 20 offensive rebounds leading to over 20 second chance points.

It was really the same story over and over each trip down the floor. Dwyane Wade or LeBron James would bring the ball up and the Sixers defense would collapse on them leaving them exposed in the front court. So whether one of the two dish the ball off for a easy basket or miss a shot, there was always several Heat players around the basket to take advantage.

On the offensive end, the story down the stretch was basically the same it's been most of the season. The Sixers simply miss shots. Andre Iguodala was 3-10, Thaddeus Young was an awful 1-8, Louis Williams scored 15 points but on 5-12 shooting and Jodie Meeks was 2-8 from the floor. The only Sixers that were getting the ball to fall consistently were Elton Brand, who scored 21, and Jrue Holiday who dropped 20 on 4-5 three point shooting.

The fourth quarter of this game was basically a clinic in the difference between a team with stars and one without. For the Heat, it became a two man game with Dwayne Wade and Lebron James dominating the ball and making shots. For the Sixers, there was clearly just no go to guy.

Game four is Sunday at 1pm in Philadelphia. The game will be on ABC as the Heat go for the sweep.


NBA Playoffs: Sixers Blown Out By Heat 94-73

There’s really not a whole to say about this game from a Sixers’ perspective. There was no shocking run in the first quarter to catch the Heat sleeping, no fourth quarter fightback… they just got worked tonight by a Heat team that looked a lot more focused than it did in game one.

Lebron James scored 29 as the Heat won 94-73 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead in the best of seven.

The Sixers were really blown away from the start with a first half performance reminiscent of Butler in the NCAA title game. They managed just 31 first half points. Andre Iguodala was 2-8, Elton Brand was 1-5… In fact the Sixers starting lineup shot just 11 for 35. All told, the starters contributed 29 points.

The only offense came from the bench in the form of Thaddeus Young who led them with 18 (on 8-20 shooting) and rookie Evan Turner who was the second leading scorer with 15 points.

The Sixers simply never looked like they were in this game. They’ll look to save some face and try to get back in this series on Thursday as it shifts to Philadelphia for game three.


Heat Beat Sixers in Game One

The story of the game read very much like a script in four acts.

Act One: Underdog pulls ahead early, surprises Big Bad Wolf.
Act Two; Wolf wakes up, starts choking the Dog with help from his zebra friends.
Act Three: The Dog gets down on itself and looks like he’s going to give up.
Act Four: He doesn’t give up, comes to the brink of salvation only to be shot down in the back of the head.

Okay so I’m mixing my metaphors and probably getting too dark for game one of a first round NBA playoff matchup. But this was a very frustrating game. The refs certainly had a hand in awarding the game to the Heat, although the absence of any cogent offense in the 2nd and 3rd quarters did a bit of damage as well to the Sixers. Collins will take a lot out of this game — that his guys can, as they expected, hang with this team of superstars, and they will need to close the free throw gap if they have a chance at winning a game.

The Heat were fouled 25 times to the Sixers 16, a difference that got smaller in the 4th quarter. Miami shot 24 more foul shots than the Sixers and were the benefit of a number ticky-tack calls that didn’t get called the other way. It’s frustration, it’s irrational, and it’s probably wrong, but that’s what the general consensus of people was during the game. Whether or not there’s some sort of referee conspiracy is a rather ludicrous claim — the idea that home teams get more calls than road teams and superstars get better calls than role players is proven fact, and to be expected.

Regardless, Andre Iguodala, Louis Williams, Marreese Speights, Andres Nocioni, and Doug Collins are all goats tonight for different reasons. Dre played terrific defense on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade over the course of the game, but couldn’t get anything going offensively save for a couple very nice passes. LeBron finished 4-14 but because of how many chances he got at the foul line, he wound up with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Some of that’s on Andre. Lou came out firing from his injury and got beat on both ends of the court far too often. Mo played an inexplicably high amount of minutes once Spencer Hawes got into foul trouble, and made too many mistakes that we’ve been accustomed to seeing him make. Noce was just really awful in every aspect of the game. He shouldn’t be in the rotation. That’s on Collins for keeping him in the rotation.

Jrue Holiday played a mix of mediocre and terrific basketball today. He was far from perfect but there were a few times when his defense was transitioning into offense for himself and his teammates. No turnovers, 19 points on 12 shots, and holding Wade and Bibby to 25 combined? That’s alright, Jrue. He passed up a crucial three at the end of the game that would have cut it close. Instead Dre bricked a three of his own and that was the game.

Elton Brand was a workhorse on this day. He and Thaddeus Young carried the team for many many stretches. Thad needs to not take any jumpers outside of 10 feet, but he got to a ton of loose balls and created matchup problems for the Heat that confused Spoelstra a lot. He led the team in scoring and rebounding with 20 and 11. Brand hit a bunch of mid-range jumpers but missed a crucial one that would have cut the lead to 1 with a minute or so remaining. He didn’t do a great job on Chris Bosh, who finished with a game-high 25 points.

Too many opportunities squandered and against an all-world team like Miami, that’s going to make it infinitely harder to beat them. They’ll take a couple nights to sit on this loss and come back in Game Two to try and steal a home game from the Heat.

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