By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun.
The setting for Friday’s game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center seemed more like the NBA’s postseason in April or May than a regular season game in early February.
One indication of the electricity in the air was the fact that there wasn’t an empty seat to be found as the Sixers sold out their home court for the first time this season.
While some fans undoubtedly came out to see Miami’s big three, the vast majority came out to see if the young Sixers could somehow pull out a win against one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals.
For the youthful Sixers, it was another chance to prove that they are among league’s best teams. Taking on the Heat’s superstar trio of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh wasn’t going to be an easy task for the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers (16-7).
As it turned out, the Sixers discovered that they still have a lot of growing and a lot of learning to do as the Heat (17-6) turned a close game into a devastating display of their awesome talent in their 99-79 victory over the upstart 76ers in front of 20, 694 disappointed fans.
For the first three quarters , the Sixers hung with the highly-touted Heat and tied the game at 61-61 on a jumper from the corner by rookie Lavoy Allen with 2:25 left in the third quarter. But from there, the Heat outscored the Sixers 38-18 the rest of the way and turned their homecourt into their own personal playground.
“We could never really make the push that we were hoping to be able to make,” said Sixers head coach Doug Collins. “Lebron hits one of those at the end of the third quarter that are momentum shots, puts them to four. We missed a couple of shots Mike Miller hits a three and a layup, so in three possessions we go from one to nine and then we’re playing uphill. They just overwhelmed us in the fourth quarter.”
The Heat came into the game with a chip on their shoulders after blowing a fourth quarter in a road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. There were no fourth quarter breakdowns against the Sixers.
“This was a very good win against a very good team that has been playing well,” said Miami head coach Erik Spoelestra.
Wade led the Heat with 26 points while James added 19 and Chris Bosh poured in 12. Players like Miller, who scored 12 points, Mario Chalmers (13 points) and rookie Norris Cole, who had 12 points were the ones hitting the shots that ultimately buried the Sixers in a hole from which they could not recover.
The Sixers were woefully inconsistent on the offensive end. They shot just 39 percent from the field and their seven turnovers led to 14 points for Miami. Power forward Elton Brand was held scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting. Thaddeus Young led all Sixers scorers with 16 points.
“It’s definitely a damper, but I’m looking at it like it was one bad quarter of basketball,” Brand said. “We were right there. It could have been a fight to the finish, but they got in the open court, got some layups, got some threes with Mike Miller and Cole hit a few threes. I think it was a bad quarter of basketball other than that, I think we’re fine. We just got tighten up the ship.”
Young said the most important lesson the Sixers got out of this loss is that they can’t afford momentary lulls in execution against a that knows how to make teams pay for their miscues. He said once Miami got it in gear they were difficult to stop.
“It tells us the that we have to minimize our mistakes,” Young said. “We have to take good shots and we have to make shots because those guys can crank it up any time. Once one gets going, it’s like one of those snowball effects where it keeps coming and keeps coming.”