Sixers Turn Blowout Into Nailbiter, Lose to Heat 84-78 Anyway

Sixers Turn Blowout Into Nailbiter, Lose to Heat 84-78 Anyway
March 16, 2012, 6:22 pm
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When Mario Chalmers hit that three to put the Heat up 27 at half, if you
would have told me (or any Sixers fan) that this would actually end up
being the closest—by far—of the three meetings between the two teams
this year, I would called you Liar McCrazyPerson. Evidently tired of
their normal strategy against the Heat of playing tough for three
quarters and getting blown out in the fourth, the Sixers instead tried
the ol' Let 'Em Tire Themselves Out Winning in the First Half and Then
Catch Up Later bait-and-switch. And to their credit, it almost
worked—though they still ended up losing by six.

The Heat were
such the better team in those first two quarters that if Coach Eric
Taylor was calling the shots for the Sixers, he might've forfeited the
game at halftime. The Heat were making everything in sight—LeBron James
and Dwyane Wade looked like they were going to coast to triple-doubles
early in the third—and I've never seen a team miss so many shots from in
tight as the Sixers did in the first 24. (Box score says Jrue Holiday
was 3-16 for the night, but I'm pretty sure they mixed up the "6" and
"1" on that line.) It was an ugly, ugly performance from the Ballers,
and it looked like the only question was if they'd even put up a fight
in the last two frames.

Well, put up a fight they did, and then
some. When the Sixers cut the lead to 13 at the end of the third, I
considered it a moral win of sorts, when Evan Turner got to the line
with about three minutes left to potentially cut the lead to four, I
thought "Holy crap, if they actually won this game, I'd be happier than I was back in 2002 when Weezer and Moby released albums on the same day." (Maladroit and 18,
and yeah, they both kinda sucked.) It didn't end up happening—too many
missed free throws and too many Udonis Haslem jumpers—but man, I'll
still till take the excruciating 84-78 loss over the 30-point blowout
any day of the week.
 
After shooting a combined 16-19 against the
Pacers on Wednesday, it was probably inevitable that Jrue and Evan
would come back down to earth tonight. While he didn't put up numbers
quite the way he has the previous four games, though—13 points on 6-13
shooting, eight rebounds and five assists (with five TOs)—Evan Turner
still impressed, scoring seven huge fourth-quarter points that had ESPN
analyst Doris Burke beaming over his confidence. (Two big FT misses
late, though—gotta work on those freebies, Evan.) Burke also called
Turner's defense an eye-opener, and rightly so—he came as close as you
can possibly come to shutting down Dwyane Wade, helping hold the Heat's
all-everything two-guard to a measly 12 points on 6-16 shooting, only
letting him get to the line twice. Hell of an all-around player, this
Extraterrestrial.

The Gods were less kind to Jrue Holiday
tonight. To his credit, The Damaja stayed aggressive, attacking the
paint consistently, but he absolutely could not put ball in basket. to
the point where it seemed to maybe get in his head a little bit, and
Coach Collins kept him on the bunch much of the fourth. And unlike Evan,
the rest of Jrue's game failed to compensate for his lack of scoring,
with zero assists, unimpressive D and an appropriate -20 differential
for the night. It's been a rollercoaster for sure with Jrue this season,
and tonight was definitely one of the drops.

Elsewhere, it was a
lot of mixed bags. 'Dre had 11 points, ten assists and three steals,
but seemed to let the team's losing irritate him in the first half, to
the point where he tried to finish about four separate 1-on-2 or 1-on-3
breaks on his own, failing each time. Lou Williams hit some big shots
but missed a whole bunch more, including shooting an uncharacteristic
2-5 from the line. Nik Vucevic looked absolutely lost in the first half,
but redeemed himself with six straight points in the third to spark the
Sixers comeback. It was that kind of game for the Liberty Ballers.

Ultimately,
I left this game feeling a whole lot better than the first two losses,
though I'm still not any closer to thinking there's a chance we could
beat this team more than once in a best-of-seven. If the Sixers can ride
that momentum into a win tomorrow night against the Bulls—who may or
may not have MVP point guard Derrick Rose available for the game—it'll
really mean something. If not, it'll just confirm what we already
basically know about this Sixers team and season—fun, exciting, but not
quite talented enough to get the job done.

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