There was a point in the fourth quarter during the 76ers-Miami Heat game when LeBron James was asked (or asked) to cover Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday. To watch the best player in the game right now not only accept the challenge but embrace was fun to witness.
James met Holiday just as he crossed halfcourt, forcing an almost immediate pass. When Holiday got the ball back, James was on him quicker than a bladder-filled dog on a fire hydrant. Then when a short jumper was missed by Damien Wilkins, James went into the lane and snared a rebound in front of Dorell Wright, drove the floor and hit a driving layup to give the Heat a 9-point lead, then it’s biggest of the night.
From there on out it was only a question of how much the Heat would win by, not if. The Sixers had valiantly battled, albeit against a Heat team that seemed to be going through the motions for much of the evening. When it was time to put the game to rest and extend the Miami winning streak to 17 games, James made sure of it.
Final score: Heat 102, Sixers 93.
“Our guys really fought hard,” said coach Doug Collins. “LeBron just grabbed the game. He hit the big three at the end of the (third) quarter (to put Miami up 1) and then he just took the ball in his hands and he made plays and then they put him on Jrue defensively. He did it on both ends of the floor. That’s why he’s the MVP. He hit a tough shot.”
The Sixers stayed in the game through three quarters, mainly because of their three point shooting as they were 10-for-17 after 3 quarters and trailed by 76-75. But James, who only played the first 4 minutes of the fourth, made all 3 of his shots and Dwyane Wade (6 points) and Chris Bosh (5) carried Miami to the win the rest of the way. To show how individually dominating the Heat was in the fourth, they had just 1 assist on their 12 field goals in the fourth quarter.
Thaddeus Young led the Sixers with 25 points, while Spencer Hawes collected 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Sixers again got a solid effort from their bench as Wright scored 14 and Wilkins added 12. Jrue Holiday dealt 13 assist, but shot just 3-for-11 from the floor and turned the ball over 4 times. In his past 2 games Holiday has shot just 6-for-23.
“We really moved the ball well,” said Collins. “When they ratcheted up the pressure in the fourth quarter, we started dribbling too much and that’s when they went on that little run.”
While the Sixers got solid performances from their inside starters in Young and Hawes, they were hurt by the play of Holiday and Evan Turner. Turner finished with 10 points but shot just 4-for-13 from the floor. He failed to get to the foul line and for much of the game appeared to be laboring up and down the floor. Turner is in a funk right now and when that happens his body language is awful. That was certainly the case Friday.
James paced the Heat with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, while Wade added 22 and Bosh 16. Ray Allen (12) and Shane Battier (11) provided spark off the bench as the Heat improved to 46-14.
“They got us into some turnovers and they get some easy ones in the open court,” said Hawes as the Sixers turned the ball over 17 times. “That’s how they break your back, with defense. If you’re going to turn it over you might as well kick the ball 10 rows into the stands instead.”
The Sixers probably feel like kicking the ball into the stands as they’ve now lost 11 consecutive road games and 11 of 12 overall to drop to 23-38.