Heat win 9th straight on Dwyane Wade's late heroics

It took over a minute for either team to score, and it was Michael Beasley breaking the scoreless tie with a 17-foot jumper, already his 2nd outside shot of the game.  It was great to see Jermaine O'Neal out there, but usually the Heat would go right to Jermaine in their first couple possessions to get the offense going.  That wasn't the case last night, though they did get the ball to J-O about 2 minutes in and he responded by drilling the 20-footer. 

Miami spent the early stages of the game dealing with the Sixers defense which was surprisingly good, and their offense helped give then a 9-point early lead thanks to an 12-0 run.  The Heat had started the game 5-of-6 from the field but since then missed 8 shots in a row.  Leading the way for Philly was Samuel Dalembert; his 3 blocked shots set the tone on defense and he added 8 points and 6 REBOUNDS in the opening quarter. 

Erik Spoelstra quickly made a change, bringing in Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony which led to an immediate 14-2 run for Miami and gave them the lead right back.  Defensively the Heat looked sluggish and slow, allowing the Sixers several good looks throughout the 1st half.  Fortunately for Miami, Philly was shooting a low percentage...but that wasn't to be counted on. 

Five minutes into the 2nd quarter Dwyane Wade had no points and 3 turnovers when he finally got on the scoreboard, hitting a free throw.  He really needed to get going because the Sixers were on a 10-3 run, going back ahead of a Heat team that did not look ready to play an NBA game after their ‘long' 3 days break between games.

Miami again responded quickly to the Philly run, going on an 15-2 run to take their largest lead of the game at 12.  After the Sixers got it back down to 6 in the final minute of the 1st half, Mario Chalmers came up short on back-to-back open treys that would've expanded the Heat's cushion heading into the break.  Adding insult to injury, the Heat did a terrible job defending in the last 2.6 seconds, allowing a full-court pass to a wide open Elton Brand, who missed (!), but nobody covered Jrue Holliday at the rim and he had an easy tip in that luckily was just beaten by the buzzer.

Just like in the 1st half, the Heat's first shot in the 2nd came from Michael Beasley.  This time it was a drive, but Beas was covered very well and ended up getting off a very ugly line-drive attempt from jut a couple feet away.   That set the tone for the early stages of the 3rd quarter as Philly scored the first 10 points against a Heat team that looked lazy and unwilling to hustle.  All 10 points came in the painted area after Miami surrendered just 4 points in the paint during the 2nd quarter. 

Turnovers were killing the Heat; if it wasn't the laziness of Beasley it was the rust on J-O, but either way Miami was not playing well enough to beat anyone, let alone a Sixers team with nothing to lose.  After a 10-10 double double in the 1st half (his 21st of the year), Samuel Dalembert had scored another 9 points in the first 6+ minutes of the quarter, leading Philadelphia on a 22-8 run.  As if that wasn't bad enough, Dwyane Wade was called for his 4th foul with 4:02 left in the 3rd.  You'd think that would prompt Coach Spoelstra to remove Wade from the game until the 4th quarter but Spo had other thoughts, leaving his superstar in the game despite him having just 6 points on 2-of-10 shooting. 

Wade quickly rewarded his coach by hitting a ridiculous running 1-handed, falling out of bounds while being fouled shot, then hitting the free throw.  2 possessions later Wade completed another 3-point play, but this time the field goal part wasn't quite as difficult.  He wasn't done there though; after hitting the free throw to tie the game, Wade came back on defense and stole the ball from Jason Smith, came down the floor on a clear breakaway and brought the fans to their feet with a  monster reverse 2-handed slamma.

I was surprised that Philly wasn't attacking Wade defensively, but instead the ball stayed on the opposite side of the floor.  You'd think that they would want to entice Wade into picking up his 5th foul...but I'm no NBA coach, so what do I know?   The officials totally missed a call that should have put Wade at the foul line with about 1 second left when he was brought the court by Jason Smith, but instead the quarter ended with the game tied at 77.  Miami had allowed the Sixers to score 30 points in the 3rd

Defensively the Heat got off to a great start in the final quarter, forcing a 24-second violation.  On the other end however, things began ugly.  After a Mario Chalmers 3-point airball, Udonis tipped the offensive board to Dorell Wright who airballed his own 10-footer.  Dorell came right back and hit a trey on their next possession though, his 2nd of the night.  The reserve unit played well enough to keep the game tied until D-Wade came back into the game with 7:37 to go. 

Things didn't go very well when Dwyane returned as the Heat turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions that led to 4 Sixers points.  Miami had their field goal percentage drop from 52% at the half to just 41% with under 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  Dorell Wright stepped up in a big way, hitting his 2nd and 3rd triples of the quarter to bring the Heat back within 1. 

Haunting Miami was former Heat sharpshooter Jason Kapono, keeping the Sixers in front with several nice jumpers.  When he finally missed a couple, it was Dwyane Wade on the other end hitting a pair of long-range J's from about 20-feet, taking the Heat from down by 1 to up by 3 with about 2½ minutes left.  After Andre Iguodala hit a pair of shots from the charity stripe to make it a 1-point game again, it was D-Wade on the other end who found himself at the foul line.

Surprisingly, Wade missed both free throws.  Iguodada made him pay by hitting an 18-foot rainbow jumper, putting Philly back in front.  The free throw woes continued to haunt Miami; this time it was Udonis at the foul line and he could only hit 1-of-2.   The game was tied with a minute left, and the Heat got very lucky when Jason Kapono missed a wide-open triple.  After Mario Chalmers ripped down the rebound, D-Wade took the ball himself right down the lane and was fouled, almost hitting the layup anyway but it very slowly rolled off the side of the rim. 

This time, Wade would nail both foul shots, putting the Heat up by 2 with 48.3 seconds left.  Coming out of the timeout, Miami played possibly their best defense of the game not giving Philadelphia any room and playing off each screen perfectly.  Jure Holliday finally tried driving with the ball but Udonis Haslem left his man and planted himself right in-between Holliday and the rim.  Udonis ended up on his butt, but not before drawing a HUGE offensive foul, the 21st time this year he's done so. 

Miami would again catch a big break during very quick sequence.  Offensively, it was Udonis Haslem taking the jumper that would have put Miami up by two possessions, but alas the shot was a little long.  Lewis Williams collected the rebound and instead of calling a timeout, he raced down the floor trying to catch the Heat off guard.  Williams got to the rim but missed the layup, and a trailing Samuel Dalembert appeared to slam home the miss. 

The referees quickly waived off the putback, calling basket interference on Dalembert.  It was a really close call as the ball was definitely on its way off the rim, but when it was touched by Dalembert the ball was still within the cylinder, making it a correct call.  Another split second and it would have been Miami inbounding the ball in a tied game with 5.6 left, but instead the Heat were still up by 2 with the outcome in their hands.  

Miami came out of the timeout with their best foul shooters on the floor, with Q inbounding the ball to either Arroyo, Wade, Haslem or Dorell.  It would be Carlos Arroyo at the charity stripe, and after his first free throw danced around the rim for a couple seconds before going in, the second one would touch nothing but the net.  After going down 95-94 with 1:34 left, the Heat scored the final 5 points of the game en route to their 9th straight win. 

The turning point of the game was absolutely when D-Wade was called for his 4th foul with 4:02 left in the 3rd.  Instead of calling Wade to the bench, Coach Spo elected to keep Dwyane on the floor for the rest of the quarter in hopes of stifling Philadelphia's current run.  Wade responded by scoring 8 points in a 2:03 span after having scored just 6 points in the game until that point. 

Dwyane would go on to score another 8 points in the 4th quarter, finishing with 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting.  He began the game just 2-of-10, but after foul #4 he finished the game hitting 6 of his final 8 shots.  That is the mark of a true champion; when he had no option other then to excel and not make a mistake, he did just that.  At first, Heat T.V. broadcasters Eric Reid and Tony Fiorentino suggested that Wade was staying on the floor as a decay, but that idea didn't last very long.

GAME NOTES

  • Jermaine O'Neal returned and played a rust-covered 27 minutes.  His footwork was a little off and he seemed to have a hard time moving around on offense, but he made up for it with 9 rebounds (4 offensive) and his usual solid D.  No blocks though...and he played just 4:36 in the 4th quarter.
  • Again, Udonis Haslem came up big off the bench for the Heat.  He scored 11 points and came down with 11 boards along with 3 assists and a steal, is 19th double double of the season.
  • This game had 15 ties and 15 lead changes.  The biggest lead for either team was when Miami led by 53-41 with 1:10 left in the 1st half. 
  • With D-Wade struggling out of the gate and Michael Beasley somewhere getting some cotton candy, it was Carlos Arroyo who took on some scoring responsibility.  He scored 7 points on 3-for-3 shooting in the games first 3:17
  • Dwyane Wade also had a nice dunk in the 1st half, his 106th of the season. 
  • I was very impressed with the game of Samuel Dalembert.  He finished with 19 points (on just 8-of-9 shooting), 16 rebounds and 4 blocks.  After his first half of 10-10-3, Miami did a much better job keeping him away from the ball after halftime. 
  • Dorell Wright hit a pair of big time triples in the 4th quarter, finishing with 19 points and 4 boards.
  • Joel Anthony had 2 blocks in his 19 minutes, his 102nd and 103rd of the season. 
  • The Heat had 8 turnovers in very sloppy 1st half, but tightened things up a bit in the 2nd half, turning the ball over just 4 times.

Don't forget to vote for the Heat Dancers in their quarterfinal matchup against the Boston Celtics Dancers.  Voting continues until 2pm today, and the winner will go on to face Charlotte ‘Lady Cats in the semifinals.  As of 7:30am, the Heat Dancers were up on Boston 67%-33%...but come on guys VOTE VOTE VOTE!

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