April 16, 2011

In their highly anticipated playoff debut, Miami's Big Three combined for 63 points, 33 rebounds and 11 assists to stave off a late Philadelphia run for a Game 1 victory -- despite getting blitzed by the Sixers 31-19 in the first quarter. After flipping the script in the second and utilizing the stifling defense it's boasted all season, Miami never again relinquished the lead and held on to a key first win in its quest for a title.

• Since the day LeBron James announced on national television that he was "taking his talents to South Beach" and joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, the question most asked by NBA followers was: Whose team is this now? In Game 1 in Miami, it was Wade and Bosh making the key offensive plays in crunch time, while Andre Iguodala's coverage forced James into becoming a perimeter jump shooter -- one who missed all four of his jumpers in the final quarter and didn't take a single shot within nine feet. Meanwhile, with a little more than two minutes to play and the Sixers in the midst of a 12-0 run, Bosh got the ball in the post and went hard at Elton Brand, drawing the foul and sinking two free throws. Then, at the 1:34 mark and the Heat up 92-87, Wade iced the game for Miami, moving away from a screen at the top of the key and sinking a dramatic 14-foot fadeaway over Thaddeus Young, drawing the foul in the process. He missed the free throw, but by that point, the late Philadelphia run had been neutralized.

• With the Sixers aggressively attacking the rim in the first quarter, using an assortment of cuts and screens to take 14 of their 23 first-quarter field goal attempts within 10-feet of the basket (hitting 10 of them), the Heat simplified their defensive approach and went with a 2-3 zone in the second quarter, stopping Philly on five straight possessions after the 11:45 mark. The Heat opted to go with the quicker Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony over Mike Bibby and Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- and it paid immediate dividends when, on back-to-back possessions, Anthony intercepted a pass from Evan Turner and Chalmers stripped Spencer Hawes of the ball while he was moving toward the rim in the paint.

• Young almost single-handedly brought the Sixers back into the game, scoring 12 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth grabbing eight offensive rebounds, including four in the last nine minutes. Young even demonstrated an ability to play sound defense on one (solid) foot, losing his shoe after completing a layup in transition at the 5:35 mark and losing his sneaker in the process. Young got back on defense and was able to contest a James Jones jumper, keeping Miami off the board for the possession.

• Philadelphia has been one of the most efficient transition teams on offense in the NBA this season, but Miami had the perfect antidote for the running of the Sixers. By getting to the free throw line 39 times (compared with 15 for Philadelphia), including 14 free-throw attempts by LeBron alone, the Heat were able to slow down the pace of the game, and avoided chasing Philadelphia down the court after their offensive possessions.

• Wade, showing some veteran playoff guile, played a bit of possum with the Sixers midway through the third quarter. After getting hammered by LeBron, who had just chased down Jodie Meeks and blocked a layup attempt in transition, Wade got up hobbling. But he went on to make two stellar hustle plays a few minutes later, first wrestling the ball away from Brand who had trapped him just below the half-court line, leading to a pass to LeBron who then handed it off to Ilgauskas for the jumper. A minute later, Wade poked away an offensive rebound from Marreese Speights, which ultimately led to a dunk at the other end from Bosh, giving Miami a 14-point lead. Shows you can't sleep on Wade, no matter how hurt he looks.

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