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76ers 91 - HEAT 97 Game 5 Recap
Apr 28 2011 12:31AM
MIAMI –Many outside of the Miami HEAT had already moved on to a second-round series against the Boston Celtics even before the team had played the necessary number of games to get out of round one. And now that Miami has ousted the Philadelphia 76ers in five games after a 97-91 victory Wednesday night, coaches and players can move on as well.
But before we do, let’s pause to give the 76ers credit.
“That’s about as competitive as you can get going down the stretch,” Erik Spoelstra said. “People that say that we weren’t ready, that’s an absolute discredit to the 76ers.”
“It was a battle each and every game,” Chris Bosh added. “I know that’s kind of cliché to say right now, but the way they execute and the way they believe in themselves, it was tough for us.”
Philadelphia could have folded umpteen different times over the course of this series, but not once did it let up. For all of the second-half runs the HEAT made, the 76ers kept hanging around, waiting to strike. It worked for them in Game 4, when a perfectly-timed 6-0 burst gave them the lead with less than 10 seconds to play. The other times, Miami was the better team, just as Doug Collins stated earlier in the series, but the 76ers never let that declaration determine their fate.
There’s no fate but what we make, so the saying goes, and Philadelphia absolutely forced the HEAT to make it.
The 76ers continually manufactured easy offense with backdoor cuts and decisive ball movement. The made Miami pay for long rebounds and turnovers, leaking out in transition (15 fast-break points) for easy offense. And, particularly in the fourth quarter, they played as strong of defense as any team has played against Miami all season, swarming both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with double-teams over the course of the game.
And in the end, Miami had to earn the series clincher at the line, shooting 16 free-throws in the fourth quarter, including a pair from Joel Anthony with 16.8 second to put Miami up three.
The next possession was all James, smothering Iguodala into a stepback, fading two-pointer that bounced off the left of the rim. A few free-throws from Wade later and the HEAT had their first series win since the 2006 championship season.
Not that things were all peaches and gravy. Miami struggled with its defensive recognition of cutters, the same types of ball-movement sets the Celtics will try to jam down their throats. And the offense became discombobulated too often when Philadelphia brought help defenders from the weakside to double Wade or James. This led to many open looks for threes – which the 76ers had to concede to play such aggressive defense – and Miami capitalized, shooting 12-of-30 from deep, but they still had to shoot 12-of-30 from deep in order to win.
“My biggest fear tonight is that they were going to finally start making some threes, and they did,” Collins said.
They won’t be able to rely on such shooting against Boston, because chances are they aren’t going to ever shoot like such against Boston.
But if they can get what they did out of Mario Chalmers (6-of-12 from three), James Jones (3-of-6 from deep) and Anthony – playing as good of defense as any player in the entire league right now – the threes won’t matter as much because Wade and James won’t always combine to shoot 15-of-38 (for 42 points).
Most of the time, at least. Miami can now move on to the Boston Celtics, but as much as everyone has been looking forward to the series, that also means moving on to not only one of the best defensive teams in the league, but possibly the best team at defending individual scorers and the pick-and-roll.
There will be plenty of picking apart the matchup over the coming days before Game 1 on Sunday, but all that can wait. For one night at least, the team can briefly bask in a victory over a team that put them to the test. And by briefly, we mean they’re already done celebrating.
“We’re still on our journey,” Bosh, going to the second round for the first time in his career, said. “The reward is a battle with Boston.”