LeBron James had 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in the Heat's 101-86 win over the Sixers. (USA Today Images)
Frankly, it could have been much worse than the 101-86 defeat for the Sixers against the Miami Heat on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
The Heat came into the Center riding a three-game losing streak and still had the opening-night loss to the Sixers fresh in their memory for Friday’s game. That was the game, of course, in which Michael Carter-Williams made his spectacular NBA debut, with a near-triple double.
The Heat made sure there was no repeat performance from the rookie on Friday night.
“They got physical with him,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “They got up and in and showed a crowd and created that type of traffic around him. They were physical and it’s a great lesson for him to play a team like that.”
The Heat hounded Carter-Williams, holding him to a career-low seven points, two assists and one rebound in 24 minutes. The rookie also had five turnovers, a sure sign that the Heat’s physical play was effective.
“This time they mixed it up and I got confused a few times and I have to learn from it,” Carter-Williams said. “I have to be prepared and adjust for the next time.”
Next time can’t be much worse than how things played out on Friday night. In fact, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Brown decided Carter-Williams and his starters had enough. Trailing by as much as 25 points late in the third quarter, Brown went with his bench players for the final 12 minutes.
Considering the starters were a combined minus-85, scored just 42 points and had to face the Chicago Bulls the next night on the road, Brown let them knock off early for a change.
“We were done and I felt like my starters were done,” Brown said. “Coaches always go through that line about when can you feel that you’re just flogging them and having them put forth energy that’s not going to result in a win.
“Your best chance is with energy and youth and they don’t know what they don’t know.”
Still, it would be tough not to notice how poorly the Sixers were shooting the ball. They went 2 for 20 from three-point range and 23 for 37 from the foul line. If that’s not telling enough, the Sixers missed 31 shots in the paint.
The Sixers’ 36.9 percent shooting percentage was actually padded in the fourth quarter when the bench players went 9 for 19.
Brown had a hunch the Heat would amp up the defense with the losing streak weighing on them.
“They did what they do and we had a hard time scoring inside,” Brown said. “We missed a lot of shots inside and I give [the Heat] credit. Inevitably we’re all going to look at the three-point line and we were 2 for 20, but look at the free throws where we were 23 for 37 and we had 23 turnovers -- it’s just amazing that we can compete and win the second half with those numbers.”
It’s relative, of course. Up by 25 points in the third quarter, the Heat rested All-Star Dwyane Wade during the fourth quarter and used Chris Bosh (game-high 25 points) sparingly. LeBron James logged more than nine minutes in the final frame, but that could have been because he was flirting with a triple-double.
James finished the game with 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Close, but not quite.
Next, the Sixers head to Chicago to kick off a short, three-game road trip. After the game in Chicago, the team plays a holiday matinee in Washington on Monday, followed by the first trip to the newly renovated Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.