Sixers Will Need Perfect Game to Cool Down the Heat

Written By Roy Burton On Thursday, April 21, 2011
After two losses at the hands of the juggernaut known as the Miami Heat, the Sixers know what needs to be done.

In an interview with PhillyBurbs.com on Wednesday, Andre Iguodala summed it up best when he said that he and the rest of his teammates "got to play... near perfect to get a win."

While that may have seemed obvious before heading into this series, the first two games in Miami did nothing but reinforce the point.

The Sixers' game plan worked perfectly for the first 12 minutes of the series as they sprinted out to a 31-19 lead in the first quarter of Game 1.

Then, the roof caved in.

After a 35-18 second quarter outburst by the Heat, the Sixers' early 12-point lead quickly turned into a 97-89 loss down at Miami's American Airlines Arena. That, coupled with a crushing 94-73 defeat on Monday, left Doug Collins and his team fully aware of the enormous task that stands before them.

If the Sixers are going to make any sort of noise in this series, there is very little room for error - a tall order for a team as young as this.

"Little things matter more now," said Jrue Holiday after practice on Wednesday. "Things we got away with in the regular season, we can't get away with now."

Even though their record improved by 14 wins this season, the Sixers are still a mistake-prone unit, settling for bad shots and allowing the other team's defense dictate their play on the offensive end.

The Heat, meanwhile, thrive on their opponents' miscues. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are two of the best players in the NBA in transition, nearly unstoppable in the open floor.

To the Sixers' credit, however, they haven't turned the ball over all that much against the Heat. They're only averaging 10.5 turnovers over the first two games - three fewer than they had during the regular season.

The statistics show that Philadelphia's problem isn't with their care with the ball, necessarily. Quite frankly, they've been careless with their shot selection more than anything else.

Through the first two games of the series, the 76ers are shooting an abysmal 37.8 percent from the field. They only averaged 81 points per game down in Miami, far below their season average of 99.0. While Miami is one of the league's premier defensive squads, shooting percentages and scoring averages that bad are attributable to both good defense and poor offensive execution.

In regards to the lack of execution, the finger of blame can be pointed directly at the two co-captains of the Sixers. Since his 11 points in the first quarter of Game 1, Elton Brand has scored nine points in the seven quarters since.

Iguodala has been a borderline non-factor to this point, with a total of nine points through the first two games of the series. In his (partial) defense, he is finding other ways to contribute, most notably with his averages of 8.0 APG and 7.5 RPG, while playing solid defense against James.

With the veterans not carrying the scoring load, the 76ers' younger players have picked up the slack as best they can. Thaddeus Young has led the team in scoring in both games in the series, averaging 19.0 points to go along with 8.5 rebounds.

Holiday is averaging 15.5 points and 4.0 rebounds against Miami, while committing only 3 turnovers in two games. Evan Turner, who spent the better part of the end of the season wondering if he'd even play, scored 15 points off on the bench in Game 2.

But while the meek shall inherit this team in the future, they simply can't match the firepower of Miami. James and Wade are going to get theirs, regardless, but the 76ers don't seem to have an answer for the rest of the Heat roster, either.

Before last Saturday, Chris Bosh seemed to be the one member of the Heat's Big Three that the Sixers could keep relatively in check. Yet Bosh - the oft-maligned third wheel of the Miami trinity - has been giving the Sixers fits on both ends of the court (23.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG).

Despite their struggles, they've held the Heat to under 100 points in both games. That same level of defensive intensity - combined with near-perfect execution on offense - could make this a series once again.

"Our defense gives us a chance," said Collins on Wednesday. "We just have to find a way for our offense to give us a chance."


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