HEAT 82 - 76ers 86 Game 4 Recap

Philadelphia – Two things have been proven this series. The Philadelphia 76ers are more than capable of taking significant leads over the Miami HEAT. And they aren’t able to hold them.

Turns out, their timing has just been off.

After losing a 16-point second-quarter lead to a 22-2 Miami run, the 76ers went a different route. With the HEAT up six with 1:35 left in the game, Philadelphia scored on three-consecutive possessions, taking a two-point lead when Lou Williams pulled up for three from the top of the key over Dwyane Wade.

In a turn of convenience, there happened to be 8.9 seconds left on the clock. The HEAT would not be able to make another run. The 76ers just had to get one stop. And they did, while Miami could not close out on its constant.

“Up six, we can rely on our defense,” Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t able to do it the way we normally do.”

For most, this game will boil down to two plays: the Williams shot which topped off the burst, and Miami’s final possession, when LeBron James caught the ball at the top of the key and drove on Andre Iguodala, getting a high-arcing shot blocked in the paint.

But those plays aren’t the reason Miami lost. Williams’ shot was well-contested, and it came off a largely broken play. In any other situation, the HEAT are happy to have the other team take such a poor look. They’re usually just as happy, too, having James aggressively take anyone off the dribble with space cleared for a drive. The percentages just didn’t play out.

No, they lost because they needed that 22-2 run, and for the third time in four games, the 76ers were the better team in the first quarter. They were faster, they fought harder for the ball, earned better looks and made more shots. The HEAT missed some good looks, going 5-of-23 from downtown, which gave them trouble spacing the floor, but there were too many long jumpers, made or not, and the paint was too wide open on the other end.

“You’re going to miss some shots but at the end of the day you have to still get stops and we failed to do that,” Chris Bosh said.

This time, even the continued defensive excellence of Joel Anthony, with the bonus of Mario Chalmers hitting three times from deep, was enough to bail them out of the hole, particularly when the same stagnation occurred at the beginning of the second half, when Philadelphia went back up five.

“We didn’t do a good job of really taking the challenge earlier and making them miss. We just have to stop digging holes for ourselves,” Bosh said.

Still, none of this is a disaster. The HEAT still held the 76ers to 95 points per 100 possessions and two quarters below 20 points. And for a team that shoots 48 percent from the field on average, 38.5 percent shooting is, if wholly remarkable, an aberration, even given playoff defense and poor offensive execution.

That hardly means this is a game to write off. Spoelstra pointed out that Miami’s slow starts are more than a trend at this point and that they must be remedied. But for this one game, the HEAT didn’t play their best, were still dominant in stretches and succumbed to a perfectly-timed go-ahead shot.

Those aren’t circumstances that will dramatically alter what we already know. That in this series, as Doug Collins has said, when the HEAT play how they can play, they will win.