Fast Breaks: Heat vs. Sixers, Game 4
The Philadelphia 76ers used a 10-0 run in the final 1:30 of the game to shock the Miami Heat and stave off elimination, winning 86-82 to force a Game 5 in South Beach on Wednesday. Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday both hit clutch three-pointers in the Philly run, and rookie Evan Turner added four of his 17 points, including two at the free-throw line, to ice the game.
• In those final 90 seconds, Philadelphia proved that things can go wrong for you all day and then just turn in your favor at the right moment. As has been the case for much of the the Sixers' season, they were struggling mightily in the half court against Miami, who alternated between a straight 2-3 zone and trapping the ball-handler on Philadelphia's pick-and-roll attempts. One play that was indicative of Philly's struggles came at the 2:50 mark in the third quarter, when good ball movement against the Miami zone found an open Williams from the top of the perimeter. Instead of going for the jumper, though, Williams opted to drive to the hoop where he was met by a slew of Heat players (Dwyane Wade officially got the block, one of Wade's five swats). But Philly's luck changed. With the Sixers down two with eight seconds left, Williams stepped up huge, hitting a straightaway three over Wade's outstretched arm, giving Philadelphia an 84-82 lead.
• It's also worth noting that Philadelphia's closers were not players most expect to step up when a game like this is on the line. Veterans Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand combined for 23 points in the first half but were non-factors in the second half, combining for just eight points in that span. Instead, Philly's leader down the stretch was first-year guard Turner. He drilled a short baseline runner in the half court with 1:22 remaining in the fourth, saving the game and the season for Philadelphia. Turner then bailed out Iguodala, who almost muffed a rebound off a Mario Chalmers miss before the rookie saved the ball from going out of bounds. On the Sixers' ensuing possession, the 20-year-old Holiday's three-pointer cut Miami's lead to 82-81 with 46 seconds left.
• The Heat have struggled all season with end-of-game field goals, and coach Erik Spoelstra's final play-call with 8.1 seconds left didn't show much imagination: a clear-out for LeBron at the right elbow. James was able to get by his man but was met by Brand, who slid over for the help at the rim and was able to contest LeBron's runner. The Heat have two other options in addition to LeBron, but no one else was even near the ball on that final play.
• Many coaches in the NBA do this, but it kills me to see Spoelstra run out his starting five of James, Wade, Chris Bosh, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mike Bibby at the start of the second half when that group was just brutal in the first quarter, getting outscored by Philadelphia, 28-16. The Heat have been at their best defensively all year with Joel Anthony and Chalmers playing alongside the Big Three, and it was no different Sunday. Ilgauskas was minus-18 for the game and Bibby was minus-15, with four missed threes that were wide open.
• The Sixers were able to put together a solid season this year by having one of the best transition offenses in the NBA, but they've struggled to get out in the open court in this series. However, the first quarter was a true showcase for 2010-11 Philadelphia 76er basketball. The Sixers scored 13 of their 28 first-quarter points in transition, with Iguodala playing the point-forward to perfection with seven points and three assists in the quarter. It's too bad the Sixers couldn't maintain the fast pace; they scored just two more transition points over the remaining three quarters and, instead, settled for an assort of pull-up jumpers on the fast break that didn't fall.