The 76ers have proven they can compete for long stretches with the Miami Heat. Now the next step is doing it for four quarters.
In Friday’s 99-79 loss to the Heat, the Sixers trailed by just four points heading into the final period.
That’s when Miami turned it on, outscoring the Sixers 32-16 in the final period and keeping considerable distance between the two teams.
The Sixers have now lost twice to the Heat this season, by 21 and 20 points. In both games, the Heat settled matters in the final period.
During the Heat’s 113-92 victory on Jan, 21 in Miami, the winners used a 32-23 fourth quarter advantage.
So in two fourth quarters, the Sixers have been outscored by 25 points.
The assessment of Friday?
“Those guys cranked it up a little on us and forced us into taking a few bad shots, but we did just go cold,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “We have to find a way to make shots and we couldn’t do it tonight.”
The Sixers shot 7 for 19 in the fourth quarter (36.8 percent) but it looked worse compared to the Heat, who were 12 for 16 (75 percent). The Heat hit all three of their treys in the quarter and were 5 of 6 from the line.
The problem with the Heat is that it’s not just LeBron James and Dwyane Wade who can apply the dagger.
Mike Miller, a terrific player before his career has recently been marred by injuries, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. Miller was 4 for 4 from the field and 2 for 2 from beyond the arc.
In fact James only scored two points in the final period, but he had six assists.
And Wade scored nine of his 26 points in the final period.
It’s interesting that before and after the game that Miami talked about how impressive the Sixers balance is.
Yet in this game, Miami had six players scoring in double figures compared to five with the Sixers.
Instead of being predictable with a two-man game between James and Wade, the Heat have other weapons to throw at teams.
As for the Sixers, this ended the longest homestand of the season with a 5-2 mark.
It’s too simplistic to say they can’t beat the Heat, although there also isn’t hard evidence that they can.
So much went the Sixers way in this game, yet they still lost by 20. For instance, the Sixers had 18 fast break points compared to five in the earlier loss. And the Sixers committed just six turnovers. (The fact that Miami had just eight turnovers, was a major factor in the win).
Actually the Sixers can blame this loss on the Milwaukee Bucks.
Miami squandered an 18-point lead and lost at Milwaukee, 105-97 on Wednesday.
The Heat had a long practice in Philadelphia on Thursday and were truly focused.
So the Sixers hope they can learn from this, but they can’t keep their collective heads too low.
That’s because after Saturday’s game in Atlanta, they have home matchups next week with the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s a critical juncture so the Sixers have to put the Miami loss behind them and hope that the gap can be closed the next time they meet the Heat, March 16 at the Wells Fargo Center.