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76ers 99 - HEAT 111 Recap

Mar 26 2011 12:48AM

MIAMI – Two truths behind runs made by the Miami HEAT are that they are generally born of either defense or floor spacing. The defense forces turnovers, which creates fast-break opportunities, and the floor spacing gives LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade ample room to operate.

And after falling behind by seven in the first quarter, those truths are exactly why the HEAT beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 111-99, Friday night.

That first period was as bad as the HEAT have looked offensively at any time this season, disjointed to the point that passes were flying five feet behind the arms of players cutting to the rim. There were cutters, still, so the intent was there, but it was all so, so off.

“We started out as sloppy and uncharacteristic offensively as we can. It was puzzling,” Erik Spoelstra said.

“What we brought offensively to start the game completely put us sideways.”

All things considering, a seven-point deficit was good damage control. Because when Philadelphia tacked on a few more points to open the second quarter, stretching the lead to 16, the HEAT were still very much in range should they get themselves figured out.

Defensively, they did, forcing five turnovers – seven in the quarter – during an 18-4 run, complete with seven layups or dunks and 10 fast-break points. It was only good enough for a one-point lead going into the break, but Miami’s working relationship between each side of the ball was clear during this self-correction: when the offense wasn’t working, let the defense fix it.

Miami needed one more, albeit minor, correction in the second half, when their sharpened execution was being foiled by poor shot making as they shot 39 percent in the third.

But once some threes from the supporting cast began to fall, most notably from Eddie House with 8:37 to play to bring Miami within four, and Spoelstra went small with James at the four and Bosh at the five, the floor spaced itself. Philadelphia no longer had four defenders at a time with a foot in the paint, blowing out and sucking back in like a blowfish. They were spread, and the All-Stars were able to go to work.

With nobody sitting at the rim to meet him in time, Wade attacked relentlessly on the left side, mounting 6-0 and 5-0 scoring runs all by himself. Wade finished with 39 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, five blocks and three steals – joined by James’ 32 points and 10 boards and Bosh’s 20 and 10 – but more importantly, so little of the offense was forced. He made quick, fluid decisions with the ball, and when the initial lane wasn’t there, Miami found James or Bosh in position to score inside (60 points total in the paint).

It will worry some that so much of the load was carried by three players, but with the floor spread so well, the role players were not ignored. This was the process as it should be, so concerns brought up by this box-score result – three players scoring 82 percent of the points – are unwarranted.

“They weren't playing buddy-ball, only passing to themselves, there was still some very good execution going down the stretch,” Spoelstra said.

No, the smallball lineups won’t work against every team, and other squads will be able to close and defend better than the 76ers, but against a possible first-round playoff matchup, the HEAT once again corrected and adapted. And operating with truths they have proven of themselves, it’s quite clear they’ll be able to do so again.