Sixers look to avoid being swept by Heat

LeBron James corrals a rebound as he fends off Andre Iguodala. "They've gotten their bodies into us more," Doug Collins said.
LeBron James corrals a rebound as he fends off Andre Iguodala. "They've gotten their bodies into us more," Doug Collins said.
Posted: April 24, 2011

The 76ers already have received their travel itineraries for Tuesday's *if necessary trip to Miami.

Wednesday's Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena appears in the schedule with an asterisk beside it. The Sixers are the only ones who can make that theoretical game a reality.

Passing out itineraries isn't presumptuous, it's protocol. But one monumental task stands between the Sixers and a return to Miami in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal. They must defeat the Heat in Game 4 Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center, something they have been unable to do in the first three games of this best-of-seven series.

Miami can complete a sweep - on the Sixers' home floor - with a win Sunday.

Or the Sixers can extend the series, surprising everyone.

"We don't want to get swept," Sixers guard Lou Williams said. "It's embarrassing. We don't want to be embarrassed on our home court, and that's the motivating factor going in."

The Sixers practiced Saturday. Because Sunday's tipoff is at 1 p.m., Saturday's practice also served as their shootaround.

"We're not throwing in the white towel," Williams said. "If you win one, you have the opportunity to win two."

Through the series' first three games, it's become clear the Sixers can do very little about the Heat's advantage at the free-throw line. Assuming the Sixers continue making shots, as they did for most of Thursday's down-to-the-wire loss, coach Doug Collins is looking at rebounding as one crucial adjustment.

The Sixers must keep that number even, specifically limiting Miami's opportunities on the offensive glass.

"We have to be more of a physical presence," Collins said. "I think we've allowed them to be the more physical team. They've gotten their bodies into us more than we've gotten our bodies into them."

The Sixers also have been at a disadvantage because their defensive scheme against stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh has included traps and double teams, meaning that when the ball goes up, block-out assignments have rotated and no longer are obvious.

"I think our guys are well prepared; they know what we need to do," Collins said. "We just need to finish it out."

That, too, has been an issue for the Sixers. And not just during this series, but all season. They've been unable to make shots during crucial stretches.

"Closing games was our Achilles heel at the beginning of the season," power forward Elton Brand said after Friday's practice. "We had problems with it during the season in stretches, and it's reared its head in the playoffs again . . . that's the problem we have."

Collins said he believes that his team can beat Miami. He has spent two days explaining how his team can conquer the inevitable doubt that will creep into Sunday's game: Why even try? We're down three games anyway, what's the point?

"Are we really going to throw our heart and soul into it like we've done all year long so we can have another chance in Game 5?" said Collins, explaining how Sunday's game will test his team's character.

"We're still optimistic, as crazy as it sounds," Williams said.


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at kfagan@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/DeepSixer3 and read her blog, Deep Sixer, on Philly.com

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