The first time the Sixers played the Heat this year was the season opener. The Sixers won, as the Sixers and their fans remembered. The Heat remembered, too (see story). Sixers head coach Brett Brown thought that might be a motivating factor for the visitors -- that and the fact that the Heat came to Philly on a surprising three-game losing streak.
“You’re getting a very talented, angry team that’s going to go up many, many levels defensively,” Brown said before tipoff. “That is going to be a real test for our young team, because we lead the league in turnovers already, and we’re going to be faced with an angry team that prides itself on defense, that is extremely well coached, that rolls out a bunch of thoroughbreds that are going to make us pay if we’re not smart. I think that’s the nature of, in my opinion, the team we’re going to play. And that’s what makes them special.”
As Brown anticipated, the Heat looked special in their 101-86 win over the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). You know who didn’t look special? If you guessed the Sixers, you are smart and observant -- or maybe you just watched the game.
The Sixers adopted a slogan this season: “Together we build.” Friday was a good night for that, because the Sixers had all the bricks they’d ever need. The Sixers shot 36.9 from the floor (only 2.6 percent better than their lowest single-game effort this season). They hit just 2 of 20 attempts from three-point range. The math nerds among you know that works out to 10 percent -- which was the worst single-game mark this year.
Part of it -- a large part -- was the Heat defense. Miami was great defending the perimeter. But part of it was the Sixer's long-range shooting, which was broken all evening.
“More than not, I think [the Heat] do a good job chasing and contesting,” Brown said. “Only a handful of threes, I think, were poor shots where we perhaps could have driven it or early in clock. I thought we had some good looks.”
“Two for 20,” Brown continued, “is 2 for 20.”
That it is.
Making matters worse (which was hard to do, but they did it), the Sixers did not take care of the ball. If you’ve watched any Sixers hoops this year, you know that’s nothing new. The Sixers' capacity to create turnovers is staggering and unmatched.
The Sixers entered the game averaging 17.2 turnovers. If you think that’s a lot, it is. It’s the most in the NBA. On Wednesday, the Sixers committed 24 turnovers in a win over the Bobcats, which is the kind of oversized number that ought to come with its own cartoon character that shoots eyeballs attached to springs out of its face when it sees something unbelievable.
That unsightly season-long trend continued against the Heat. The Sixers turned the ball over 23 times against the Heat, which led to 25 points for Miami.
“We actually spread our turnovers around quite well,” Brown said, getting a laugh from the media assembly. “You can’t just blame it all on pace … it doesn’t give you the freedom to be reckless or irresponsible. Sometimes we’re wishing things. We’re hoping things. We’re trying to will our way into making something happen. The game tells you everything -- it’s not there.”
It wasn’t there Friday. Not the shot from distance, not the attempt to limit turnovers, not even uncontested attempts from the free throw line. The Sixers took 37 free throws and made 22. That’s 59.5 percent. Like a lot of the other stats from Friday evening, it wasn’t good.
“How about the free throw number -- 22 for 37?” Brown asked rhetorically. “Those are enormous numbers. You’d think we’d look down and say ‘we lost to the Miami Heat by 50.’”
They didn’t. It just felt that way.