One team, the Philadelphia 76ers, played Wednesday night’s 114-110 debacle as if it was the last game they would ever play.
The other, the Miami Heat, played as if they were the back-to-back champions that could care less about a late October matchup with arguably the league’s worst team.
As a result of their lackadaisical approach, especially on the defensive end where they allowed Philadelphia to shoot 54 percent from the field, score 50 points in the paint, and record 36 points off of 23 careless Heat turnovers, the Heat suffered one of their more embarrassing losses in the ‘Big Three’ era.
Then again, Dwyane Wade didn’t play so it wasn’t exactly a ‘Big Three’ last night. Still, there’s hardly any sort of excuse the Heat could muster up in allowing rookie Michael Carter-Williams to nearly record a quadruple-double in his debut with 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds or Evan Turner scoring 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting.
There was also hardly any excuse for the Heat falling behind 19-0 to start off and then succumbing an eight-point lead in the final three minutes. Miami worked its way back thanks to an 80-56 run that spanned the second and third quarters, but fell apart in the final minutes thanks to poor execution that led to turnovers and fastbreaks for Philadelphia.
Miami was able to score 38 points of the turnovers they created, but their reliance on the three-point line proved to be their downfall. Even though they converted 40 percent of their 40 three-point attempts, they still attempted 40 three-pointers and it eventually resulted in the Heat settling for long jumpers and not attacking the basket.
The Heat only scored 36 points in the paint and attempted only 13 free throws to Philadelphia’s 24 attempts.
Miami was led by LeBron James’ 25 points, 13 assists and four rebounds, but he, too, relied too heavily on long jumpers, taking seven three-pointers on the night. He was one of four Heat players to attempt at least six three-pointers, with the other three being Ray Allen (4-of-9), Mario Chalmers (4-of-6), and Shane Battier (0-of-7).
Speaking of Battier, it’s either boom or bust with him. He attempted and made all four of his attempted threes against Chicago, yet couldn’t buy a basket the very next night. That’s the downside of living by the three on this Heat team; you may not always make them.
But Miami’s reliance on the three should have won this game since it at least came within the rhythm of the offense. Out of Miami’s 42 field-goals, 30 of those were assisted on. The Heat actually set a franchise record when they converted ten three-pointers in a 45-point third quarter.
But it wasn’t enough. Perhaps if there wasn’t a 21-point deficit to overcome in the first or a complete collapse in the final minutes of the fourth quarter there would be a different story.
The problem was Miami’s defense which looked like, well, what you sometimes see from the Heat early in the season against an inferior opponent they take lightly. You could use their loss to the Washington Wizards last year when they gave up 105 points as another example.
The Heat also allowed Spencer Hawes to score 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting and Tony Wroten to score 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Needless to say, effort wasn’t exactly in the cards for a Heat team that may have been looking forward to their Friday matchup with the Brooklyn Nets.
There were some encouraging signs for Miami, though. Chris Bosh recorded 22 points to go along with ten rebounds, Rashard Lewis dropped 11 points and had five dimes in his season-debut, and Norris Cole had another strong showing with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go along with three rebounds and three assists.
Defense was clearly the issue against Philadelphia. This Heat team is a lot better than allowing the likes of Spencer Hawes and Michael Carter-Williams to do whatever they want on the offensive end, especially after proving how stout of a defensive team they were the night before when holding Derrick Rose to only 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
Miami’s defense and its effectiveness is solely based on the effort that is exerted. The constant rotations are meant to keep the opponent out of the paint and reliant on low-percentage. It wasn’t nearly the case last night as the Sixers kept finding easy shots near the rim.
So, no, there is absolutely no reason to worry. Miami has had plenty of defensive lapses like this in games against inferior opponent and it stems from how hard they’re trying to suffocate their opponent.
Perhaps it won’t be the case when the Heat are actually inspired to defend their opponent as they did against the Bulls, holding them to only 33 first-half points. Miami will receive another chance to prove their defensive mettle in a tough contest with the Nets on the road.