The 76ers mounted a furious fourth quarter comeback, but fell short to the Miami Heat 97-89 in game one of the Eastern Conference playoffs Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Trailing by 13 in the fourth quarter, the Sixers scored 12 straight points to cut the deficit to one, but they would never take the lead. Chris Bosh hit two free throws and Dwyane Wade made a tough shot to push the lead up to five, and Miami escaped with the series-opening victory.
In the first quarter, the Sixers looked like a team on a mission. Every shot seemed to be going in, and the Heat had no solution for stopping the Sixers’ offense. Philadelphia jumped out to a 31-19 lead with all the confidence in the world for a seven seed facing the likes of a championship contender. However, balance was restored in the second quarter as the Heat outscored the Sixers 35-18 to take a five-point halftime lead.
The Heat extended the lead to as much 16 in the third quarter, and they appeared to be on their way to a blowout victory. The Sixers never gave up though, and fought back with the intensity and passion that their fans have grown accustomed to seeing with Doug Collins as head coach. Thaddeus Young played a great game with 20 points and 11 rebounds, Jrue Holiday scored 19, and Elton Brand had 17 for the Sixers. “Second time in three weeks that we had a big lead and let it slip,” said Brand, referring to the March 25th game against the Heat in which the Sixers led by 16 at one point. “It’s more of a discouraging feeling knowing that we could have won these games”.
For the Heat, Chris Bosh had a huge game, finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while LeBron James scored 21 points to go along with 14 rebounds. Sixer killer Dwyane Wade had a poor game for his standards, scoring just 17 points. However, five of those points came late in the game to hold off the Sixers’ rally.
The optimist in me would say that the Sixers played extremely well in both the first and fourth quarter, and kept the game close despite an enormous discrepancy in free-throws. The Sixers went 12 for 15 from the line, while the Heat were 31 for 39. When one team attempts 24 more free throws then their opponent, the game usually isn’t close. It’s almost a known fact that the Heat are going to get more calls than any team they play. It’s just how the game works when you have two of the league’s biggest superstars on your team. The Sixers will have to keep fighting and attack the basket more in game two to try and alleviate the Heat’s free-throw advantage.
It’s clear that the Heat are the more talented team, and they are expected to win this series with relative ease. However, the Sixers showed that they are a formidable opponent. Unforutunately, they came up just short. Game two is scheduled for Monday night at 7 PM.