Sixers fall just short in attempt to end Heat's streak

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Sixers fall just short in attempt to end Heat's streak

BOX SCORE

For one night, it seemed like old times. In the end, though, recent trends fell in line.

The Sixers gave the white-hot Miami Heat a slight scare Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, but once again, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen delivered, this time for a 98-94 victory (see Instant Replay).

The win pushed the Heat's winning streak to 20 games. It’s tied for the third-longest winning streak in NBA history, and it’s the longest streak since the Houston Rockets won 22 in a row during the 2007-08 season.

The NBA record for longest winning streak is 33, set by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1971-72. That team featured four Hall of Famers and went on to win the NBA title that season. The common link with the streaking Heat is Pat Riley, who played for the Lakers long before taking over as team president for Miami.

The Heat still have a long way to go if they are going to threaten the Lakers’ record. They also will have a lot of teams taking aim at them the way the Sixers did on Wednesday night.

The Sixers clawed back after Miami ended the first half on a 23-6 run and were down five entering the fourth quarter. Then they erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth and actually led by three with 3:37 remaining. After trading baskets, the Sixers forged a tie with 1:20 to go when Jrue Holiday drove through the Heat's defense and threw down a dunk over James.

But the Heat’s superstars took over in the final minute with James and Wade combining to go 5 for 6 from the foul line and Wade adding a tip-in over Thad Young and Spencer Hawes with 29.4 seconds left to push the lead to three points.

After Wade’s bucket, the Sixers ran a play in which Holiday found Hawes alone under the basket, but the reverse layup rolled off the rim. Two more foul shots from Wade iced it.

“That’s why they’re able to go on 20-game winning streaks,” Hawes said. “You can’t play that well consistently just going pedal to the metal. They pick their spots and they really press and obviously they have a pretty good formula.”

Afterwards, the Sixers took some solace in the fact that they gave the Heat all they could handle.

“When it came down to it, they made plays. We made plays, too, but they made more,” Holiday said. “It kind of sucks to say it, but we play to the level of our competition. Against the good teams we compete to the end and we step up to the challenge.”

At 24-40, the Sixers have stepped up but haven’t delivered. While the Heat have ripped off 20 wins in a row and 25 out of the last 27 to clinch the first playoff spot of the year, the Sixers have dropped six out of their last seven and 13 out of the last 15. During the Heat’s winning streak, the Sixers have gone 4-16 and now are 8½ games behind the Bucks for the final playoff spot in the East.

So in playing to the level of the competition on Wednesday night, the sold-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center treated the game as a de facto playoff matchup, creating an atmosphere not seen in the arena since last spring. The fans exploded into a raucous frenzy when Holiday dunked over James and were fired up by Young’s energetic effort.

With Young leading the Sixers with 24 points and 15 rebounds and Holiday adding 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, the Sixers were in a great spot with a minute to go in the game.

But that’s where the Heat thrive.

“At the end, we just couldn’t come up with that one rebound,” coach Doug Collins said. “I thought we executed, got some good shots at the end, but we just couldn’t find a way to get over the top.”

That’s the story of the Sixers’ season.

Just don’t expect them to pack it in. Even though the Sixers have to go 17-1 the rest of the way to finish with a .500 record, Young promises the effort will be there.

“No game is easy. Any team can be beat on any given night, so you have to go out there and always play as hard as you can,” Young said. “I don’t think there’s any pressure on us. Those guys have a streak that they didn’t want to end and we were trying to end it. We’ve got to go out there and figure it out -- just figure out how to beat those guys.”

The Sixers face the Heat once more on April 6. If the streak stays alive, the Heat could be attempting to tie the Lakers’ record against the Sixers.

Next, the Sixers host the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night before facing the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

Report: Bulls continuing trade push for Jahlil Okafor

Report: Bulls continuing trade push for Jahlil Okafor

The Bulls are apparently still after Jahlil Okafor.

Chicago has continued its trade push for the Sixers’ big man, according to a report Wednesday night by The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

In early February, the Bulls inquired about Okafor, according to a report by CSNChicago.com.

With Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline nearing, the clock is ticking on the Sixers’ possible trade of Okafor, who will get moved” by the mandatory cutoff date, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge on Tuesday.

The Sixers already have one trade nearly completed. They are currently finalizing a deal that will send Ersan Ilyasova to the Atlanta Hawks, a league source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato on Wednesday night (see story).

With Okafor, aside from the Bulls, other teams have reportedly expressed interest in the second-year center, including the Pacers, Blazers and Pelicans (who are expected to be out of the running after landing DeMarcus Cousins).

Okafor is averaging 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23 minutes per game this season over 38 contests. Last season, he played 53 games (48 starts) as a rookie and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds.

The 21-year-old has taken all the trade buzz in stride.

“Trade rumors are something that’s going to be part of my life probably for as long as I’m in the NBA," Okafor said on Feb. 4 after the Bulls’ reported interest originally surfaced. "I’ve been hearing it since I’ve been in the NBA about me being traded. I just try to focus on what I can. That’s being here on this team and trying to help this team win.”

Sources: Sixers finalizing trade to send Ilyasova to Hawks for Splitter, 2nd-round picks

Sources: Sixers finalizing trade to send Ilyasova to Hawks for Splitter, 2nd-round picks

Updated: 9:45 p.m.

Ersan Ilyasova’s time with the Sixers is over after just 53 games.

The Sixers will send Ilyasova to the Hawks in exchange for big man Tiago Splitter and two second-round picks, according to league sources. The Sixers have not determined if they are going to keep Splitter or waive him, as they have done with previous trades. Splitter’s contract will expire after this season. 

Looking at the two picks, the Sixers will receive the Heat’s 2017 second-rounder. In addition, they will have rights to a pick swap of the Hawks’ 2017 second-round pick and the least favorable of the Jazz’s four second-round picks. That pick is between the Jazz, Knicks, Pistons and Warriors, and will most likely result in the Warriors’ selection at 60. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported the trade. 

Ilyasova has an expiring contract. Instead of letting it run out and getting nothing in return, the Sixers added to their mounting stockpile of picks. These picks will be important to keep in mind should the Sixers look to make a deal before the draft. 

The Sixers acquired Ilyasova in November from the Thunder for Jerami Grant. The ninth-year veteran added instant leadership and accountability, both in practices and in games, which was needed upon the retirement of Elton Brand. 

Ilyasova also served as a go-to for rookie Dario Saric. Not only do they play the same position, Ilyasova could help him navigate his first season in the league after a career in Europe. Ilyasova’s departure creates the opportunity for Saric to step back into the starting power forward role. Saric is averaging 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds off the bench in his last 10 games.

Ilyasova quickly fit into the Sixers’ system upon being traded, scoring 21 points against the Cavaliers in his second game. He seamlessly slid into the starting lineup while Saric was moved to the second unit as he learned the NBA. Ilyasova ranked second on the team in scoring (14.3 points) and third in rebounds (5.9). He led the Sixers with 46 games in double-figure scoring (including 12 of 20-plus) and 10 double-doubles. 

Ilyasova struggled as of late, though. This month, his shooting percentage dropped to 35.6 from the field (the first month below 40 percent) and 23.4 from three-point range. He scored a combined 10 points in the Sixers’ final two games before the All-Star break, going 4 for 16 from the field and 1 for 7 from three. 

“I am not going to say it’s just because of free agency,” Ilyasova said last week (see story). “You have 82 games, you can’t play perfect. Sometimes you have good games and bad games. Last week, I was kind of out of rhythm and missed a lot of shots.”

After playing his first seven NBA seasons with the Bucks, the Hawks are now Ilyasova’s fifth team in two seasons.

Like Ilyasova, the 6-foot-11 Splitter is a veteran with international experience. Splitter, 32, is in his seventh NBA season. He has been sidelined all season, though, by calf and hip injuries. On the day of the trade, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported his return “is not imminent” but the Hawks did not expect him to miss the entire season. 

Splitter most recently averaged 5.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 16.1 minutes for the Hawks last season. 

Brett Brown is very familiar with Splitter. He was on the Spurs’ coaching staff when Splitter began playing for the team in 2010. Splitter spent his first five seasons in San Antonio before being traded to the Hawks in 2015. 

There could be more moves on the horizon for the Sixers. Wojnarowski also reported the Bulls are continuing to push for a Jahlil Okafor trade (see story).

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.