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76ers 73 - HEAT 94 Recap

Apr 19 2011 12:33AM

MIAMI – For the Miami HEAT, this was a perfect playoff game.

They came out with energy, executing on offense with patience and precision. They shut down the middle of the floor, forcing the Philadelphia 76ers into contested jumpers, which they missed. And once they gained a sizeable lead, they held it in dominant fashion.

The end result: a 94-73 victory, a 2-0 advantage with the series headed to Philadelphia, one of the most convincing defensive performances of the year – allowing just 83 points per 100 possessions and fewer points than total shots taken – and a telling statement from 76ers coach Doug Collins.

“If they’re playing great, they’re a better team,” Collins said. “If they’re playing on top of their game, they’re a better team.”

And the HEAT were unquestionably on top of their game.

They’ve had better stretches, at times majestic on offense and at others torturous on defense. They’ve shot better, had more highlights and had prettier box scores, but rarely have they been this consistent, this great from tip to buzzer.

Every aspect of Miami’s game was in synergy, and there was no better example than in the second quarter. The 76ers, down 12, work the ball around the perimeter until Thaddeus Young seals his man and collects a perfectly-placed entry pass, seemingly with a layup in his near future. Joel Anthony quickly rotates from the weakside, smothering Young, without fouling, and contesting the shot. Young grabs his own rebound and goes up again. Anthony smacks it off the backboard, and the HEAT are off.

The counterattack is afoot.

Wade takes the ball up the middle of the court, and when met by a defender he hits Mario Chalmers, 20-feet ahead on the left wing. Chalmers immediately spots James on the opposite wing and throws the lob, which James crushes.

You’ll see the video countless times over the next 48 hours, but even if it grows stale, that cannot take away from its significance. That is the HEAT at their best, and very well could have been the point of no return for Philadelphia, but this energy was sustained throughout. There was no hint of letdown, not even a glimmer of due panic. This was dominance, all of it a certain je ne sais quoi that takes precedence over any strategic tinkering.

“More than anything schematic, more than anything adjustment wise, we need to bring the sense of urgency,” Erik Spoelstra said. “Really, that’s what it was about more than anything. It transcended all of that. Our guys came in with real respect and desperation because of what Philly brought in that first quarter [in Game 1].”

Beyond that, consider that LeBron James scored 29 points. Philadelphia’s starting lineup? 29 points. Chris Bosh scored 21 points on 13 shots to go with 11 rebounds. Dwyane Wade opened the game with an aggressive fervor despite suffering from migraines the previous two days.

And then there was Joel Anthony, deserving of all hyperbolic praise for his defensive efforts. Spoelstra has often cited Philadelphia as a team of dangerous speed and athleticism. When Anthony plays as he did Monday night, any advantage is nullified. The HEAT can stay in man-to-man defense, and the 76ers are forced to play at their highest level, or attempt to survive on the low percentages.

“Anthony was outstanding,” Spoelstra said. “His versatility on several different players, and also defending the rim. He’s showing why we value him so much for the things that he does defensively.”

“He’s the reason why their defense is so strong,” added Andre Iguodala.

Further description would be piling on. There is fascinating nuance from this game to pick apart, but this, this whole, not the sum, is what the HEAT need to be. Spoelstra offered a reminder that a series doesn’t truly start until a team wins on the road, for which Miami will have two opportunities this week, but something else entirely may have started with Monday’s figurative execution via execution.