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.