The NBA schedule can be unforgiving at times.
Sure, the docket read that the Sixers had two days off before playing just their second game after the All-Star break on Saturday.
But that likely did little to relax a struggling Sixers team with the defending-champion Miami Heat and their nine-game win streak coming to town for the first game of a back-to-back set.
That time to rest meant even less once both teams took the floor, as the Sixers were blown away in a 114-90 defeat at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). The loss was the Sixers’ fourth in a row and dropped them to nine games below .500 at 22-31.
“That team is big-time good. They’re a great, great team,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said of the Heat. “I don’t see any weaknesses.”
The Sixers certainly made the Eastern Conference-leading Heat (39-14) appear at least slightly vulnerable early on.
The starting backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Nick Young found a rhythm right from the opening tipoff, combining for 27 points on 12-for-16 shooting in the first half. As a whole, the Sixers moved the ball crisply to open shooters and knocked down attempts to the tune of 53.8 percent shooting in the half.
“I thought we did a lot of good things in the first half,” Collins said. “The things we worked on offensively, getting guys in the right spots the way they really guard you. Having the right spacing on the floor. I thought we did a lot of good things.”
“We have to sustain that through 48 minutes,” said Holiday, who led the Sixers with 21 points and six assists. “I thought in the first half we did really well.”
While the Sixers’ offense was clicking in the first half, their defense was anything but up to par.
They accomplished one goal by holding LeBron James to just five points in the first half, but still allowed the Heat to shoot 60.5 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from long range as a team.
That managed to cancel out the Sixers’ own offensive outburst in the first 24 minutes, as they walked into halftime staring at a 56-47 deficit.
“You take away something and you got to live with it,” Evan Turner said. “We kind of took away the inside in the first half and they started hitting threes. In the second half, they started opening up a little bit more. … They hit shots, you know?
“That team, when they go to LeBron as a four, is impossible to guard. You can’t guard them,” Collins said. “They have a big rolling, setting screens, and they have three-point shooters spreading you out. They’ve got (Dwyane) Wade isolating in the post.
“They are so good offensively when they have their small unit out there. I looked at our coaches and I said, ‘What do you take away from them?’”
Not James. The three-time MVP was content to distribute in the first half before taking control after intermission. He finished the game with 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his 35th career triple-double.
“You know he’s going to rebound. You know he’s going to distribute anyway,” Holiday said of James. “I guess he just kind of picks and chooses when he wants to distribute more. Obviously, when he distributes he’s getting his team points instead of him.”
“He’s so big and strong and powerful,” Collins said. “He decides whether he wants to be a passer or scorer. Tonight he distributed the ball. He got everybody involved. The plays he made were incredible. The speed … he’s an amazing player.
Wade was the beneficiary on many of those James helpers. The Sixers allowed him to score a game-high 33 points on 14-for-18 shooting.
The Sixers’ hot shooting predictably cooled off a bit in the second half and they fell behind by as many as 26 points before the final buzzer.
“We got careless in the second half,” Collins said. “We started dribbling too much and then the cross-court passes we talked about not making -- we made. When we did, they picked them off and they went down and dunked the ball.”
The Sixers won’t have much time to try and fix those mistakes. They head to Madison Square Garden on Sunday night for a 7 p.m. matchup against an angry Knicks team motivated to snap a four-game losing streak. So much for that relaxing post-All-Star-break schedule.
The Sixers finished the game 35 of 78 from the field (44.9 percent). ... Dorell Wright had 17 points off the bench. ... The Sixers were outscored 18-0 on fastbreak points. ... The Sixers didn't attempt their first free throw until Jrue Holiday stepped to the line with 4:12 remaining in the third quarter. They finished the game 9 of 10 from the charity stripe. ... The Sixers set a Wells Fargo Center record for the least number of steals in a game with one.