Sixers' quest ends in loss to Heat

Posted: April 27, 2011

MIAMI - The 76ers did everything they could.

They attacked the rim, they rebounded, they scrambled, they defended, and they double-teamed on defense.

But the Miami Heat, well, they just barely squeezed it out.

And now the Sixers' season - a very good season, a very surprising turnaround season - is over.

It ended at AmericanAirlines Arena, where the Heat defeated the Sixers, 97-91, in Game 5 Wednesday night.

Miami won this opening-round, best-of-seven series, four games to one. The Heat advances to play the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Sixers would not go away. Miami's Dwyane Wade (26 points) would hesitate-and-go, dropping a floater for a little breathing room. A few seconds later, the Sixers would tack on a basket of their own, always hanging around.

On a three-pointer by Wade with 8 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game, the Heat took an 81-71 lead. About eight minutes later, Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala (22 points) nailed a step-back jumper to bring his team to within one point, 92-91, with 36.7 seconds left.

Miami's Joel Anthony made two free throws with 16.8 remaining, setting up the Sixers' final meaningful offensive possession of the season: Iguodala crossed over and missed a foul-line jumper with 9.3 seconds left.

Before Wednesday's contest, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra emphasized his team's renewed focus for the game's start. Asked about the team's poor first quarters (the Sixers held double-digit leads in three of the first four games), Spoelstra said he'd made it clear - crystal clear, in fact - to his team over the previous 48 hours that a fast start would be crucial in snagging Game 5 and ending this first-round series.

And then his team did the exact opposite. Or, rather, the Heat kept doing what they've been doing, which is looking disinterested in the first half of the first quarter.

In Game 5, once again, the Sixers took off after the jump ball: On a driving layup by guard Jodie Meeks with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Sixers took a 16-5 lead.

Nobody expected that lead to last, or to grow, but if previous form held true, the Sixers would take this game until the final possessions. Behind 14 points from power forward Elton Brand (who finished with 22), the Sixers jogged to the halftime locker room trailing by only 45-42.

The Heat, as they've done, climbed out of the hole. But unlike previous games, when Miami poured a devastating run on the Sixers, the Heat could only get themselves back into it and set up an even match for the second half.

Miami forward LeBron James, guarded by both Iguodala and rookie Evan Turner, managed only one field goal in the first half. James finished the first half with three points on 1-for-6 shooting from the floor.

The Sixers kept pace by making backdoor cuts and slashing to the rim. On multiple occasions, Sixers center Spencer Hawes dropped a nifty bounce pass to Brand for an easy score. The Sixers, shockingly, were outscoring Miami in the paint, 28-14, through the first two quarters.

Miami shot only 35.6 percent from the floor in the first half.


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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