MIAMI -- There was no Dwyane Wade. There was no Chris Bosh.
But there was Lebron James, who returned to the floor after a three-game hiatus. And he was enough.
James led all scorers with 27 points, as the Heat dispatched the Sixers, 106-87, sweeping the season series and stretching their regular season win streak over the Sixers to 15 straight (see story).
Miami led by just one, 77-76, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but outscored the Sixers, 29-11, over the final 12 minutes.
“That is winning teams do. That’s what championship teams do, veteran teams,” said Dorell Wright, a former member of the Heat.
The Heat led by 15 points after the first quarter with LeBron James scoring 11 of their 33 points and Miami connecting on 5 of 7 three-point field goal attempts. The Sixers climbed back into the game and hung around over the next two quarters, but James (12-for-17 shooting) and his teammates were too hot to handle in the fourth.
“He can do whatever he wants to do. He is so strong,” Doug Collins said, referencing James. “He gets the ball in the paint. He can see over the top of you. When he was a younger player, I always said he was a pass-first guy anyway and I thought he was a guy forced to be a scorer in his career because that is what his team needed. But to me he is a triple-double every single night.”
On Saturday, James finished with only four rebounds and five assists, playing fewer minutes (29:42) than usual. But thanks to James' passing prowess and ability to draw multiple defenders, the Sixers faced a team that moved the ball extremely well and found the open man behind the three-point arc.
Miami was 14-for-25 from long distance and finished with 25 assists. Those two stats proved the difference.
“They made every three,” Collins said. “They shot the equivalent of 21-for-25 from two today. When they shoot the ball and stretch you like that you aren’t going to beat them.
“That is the great equalizer,” Spencer Hawes said of the three ball. “You see teams in college basketball that aren’t supposed to be there and they end up making runs and I don’t think the NBA is any different. It is not like the Heat need an equalizer, but the way they play and the way they stretch, you out you have to pick your poison and they were making threes.”
Hawes finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for his 19th double-double of the season.
The Sixers were led in scoring by Jrue Holiday, who had 18 points. Holiday missed his first five shots but finised 7-for-17 from the floor, making his grand total over the last three games 12 makes on 53 on field-goal attempts.
Dorell Wright missed Friday’s game in Atlanta because of a right elbow contusion but returned Saturday to score 10 points and grab seven rebounds coming off the bench.
Watching this Miami Heat team reminded Wright of the Miami team that won the franchise’s first NBA championship in 2006. He proudly pointed out that he was on that roster.
“I don’t see too many differences,” Wright said. “We had a veteran group with a lot of guys that came to do their job as well. We had superstars as well, in their career, but we had one common goal to continue strong. We were an on-point team where everybody bought into what Coach Riley preached everyday. That is what made us so good and that is why we won all the games that we won.
“It is like that when you have good leaders in the locker room like LeBron and D-Wade. Ray Allen is someone that is well-respected and Shane Battier is a great teammate I hear all the time. When you have guys all on the same page and one common goal it’s always good.”