Here's the difference between the Miami Heat and the 76ers. In the first quarter of Saturday's opening game, the Sixers delivered their best shot. They scored 31 points, shot over 60 percent from the floor, led 31-19, and were bouncing all around the court. What happened? Miami was knocked slightly onto its heels, tossed a smidged off balance, and needed half of the second quarter to stand upright and reclaim the lead. Half of one quarter. Just a few minutes. You could have gone to grab a hot dog and by the time you returned, Miami had already put together its 12-0 run and was once again leading.
Today, Miami offered a return blow. The Heat swarmed on defense all game, created turnovers, and worked around an ailing Dwyane Wade to create some decent offense. What happened? The Sixers were wiped off the floor. This wasn't even the best Miami can offer. Perhaps defensively it was, but in other areas it was simply solid, strong, good. And the result was that the Sixers weren't even competitive, couldn't even score, were limited to 1 for 13 shooting from their three primary interior players (Spencer Hawes, Elton Brand, and Marreese Speights) and 2 for 8 from their best all-around player (Andre Iguodala).
Afterward, it wasn't as if coach Doug Collins wanted to pretend that this was "just one of those games" that happen in a "long NBA season." No. He gave it to you straight: when Miami is good, there's absolutely nothing the Sixers can do. Put it another way? Miami's best is better than the Sixers' best, although more accurately you could say Miami's good is better than the Sixers' great.
This is the truth, and since we said all along the truth is revealed in the playoffs, that's what's happening. The Sixers' interior is being dominated by an opposing interior that isn't actually considered top notch, but merely mediocre. Iguodala can't create any offense during the postseason, not when defenses have shifted out of their oh-it's-just-another-regular-season-game style and into do or die. And the team's halfcourt offense, when boarded inside that half-court line, just doesn't have the pieces (enough shooters, enough big men, any go-to scorer) to compete with a team like Miami.
(On a positive note: Evan Turner looked good tonight and Jrue Holiday has had a strong presence in both games. Also, Thaddeus Young continues to play 100 miles an hour and pile up numbers, which would be beneficial if they were supporting-actor numbers instead of leading-role numbers ... but that fact is just another example of why the Sixers struggle in a post-season series.)
So what now?
Realistically, sitting here after the game and listening to Collins and the guys, the Sixers now understand the reality of the sitation. It's possible that Saturday's mild success had them believing in a vision that was really just a dream. Tonight, they got clobbered over the head by real life: Miami is so much better and Miami is going to end this series in four games, lopsided ones at that, if the Sixers don't find something that will work. Hawes must wake up, Iguodala must stop worrying about every other factor on the court -- the calls of the referees, forgotten plays, miscommunicated defensive assignments -- and play like a team leader, which in other games might not mean scoring, but when your team can't even reach 75 points, definitely does mean scoring. And Lou Williams must return to being Lou Williams because without him this team won't make it to halftime within arm's reach of Miami.
And even all of that -- for anyone who watched tonight's demolition -- might not produce victory, but it will keep things from getting embarrassing.
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