For the first time in 17 games — and for just the second time at home this calendar year someone beat the Sixers.
Some might say it was just a matter of time. Others might say the Miami Heat studied hard, put together a gameplan and attacked the Sixers where they were weak. Whatever it was, Philadelphia faltered in Game 2 Monday night, 113-103, as Miami evened the seven-game series at 1-1.
The three-point shooting that propelled Philly to a gigantic Game 1 victory failed them in the second game, as the squad shot just 17.6 percent from the field.
The Sixers made something out of nothing as things got close down the stretch. Trailing by 16 with less than a minute to go in the third quarter, an Ersan Ilyasova tip in cut an insurmountable lead to just two points at the four-inute mark. A 21-7 run was stopped when an ageless Dwyane Wade punished the Sixers with a breakway dunk to highlight his 28-point outburst off the bench and build the lead back to eight points with two to play.
The unlikely victory just wasn’t meant to be, though the grit and determination shown to fight back will certainly serve the team well when Joel Embiid returns — likely in Game 3 in Miami on Thursday.
Ben Simmons led Philly with another near triple double, netting 24 points, seven assists and eight rebounds. Dario Saric also had a big night scoring 23 points.
Miami had a scheme to slow down the Sixers and it was a doozy. After being pummelled from three (Philly shot better than 62 percent in Game 1) 130-103, they seemed very focused on slowing Philly down and messing up their pace of play. Officials whistled 30 fouls in the first half as Miami took advatage of the typically speedy Sixers and held them to 42 points, nearly 15 lower than their regular season average.
Trailing by 14, the comeback attempt began with a little 9-2 spirt to start the second half. The lead was built back to 12 but the temperature rose a bit on a highlight-reel play, with Dario Saric playing quarterback and throwing a three-quarter court pass to a streaking Ben Simmons, who punished the rim with a dunk.
By the time Dwyane Wade drilled a contested fadeaway jumper with Robert Covington’s hand in his eye, Philly had found a way to lose ground and trailed 81-65 at the 2:28 mark in the third.
In the fourth, a Saric three cut the Miami lead to eight with just under nine minutes to play. The run would continue as Philadelphia made it competitive again seemingly from the brink of defeat.
As it was in Game 1, the Wells Fargo Center was a deafening convex well of sound, bubbling up at a fevered pitch as fans watched every possession with baited breath and intensity.
The first quarter showcased the incredible balance and shooting skill of Marco Belinelli and the continued pinpoint ball movement that has turned the Sixers offense from middling to groundbreaking during the regular season. A early 29-22 advantage helped Philly start building momentum after the first 12 minutes.
Four very quick fouls stifled that momentum, however, as the Sixers scored just four points over the first 7:34 of the second as Miami closed the gap to take the lead. With Philly completely out of rhythm due to a suffocating full-court press, Wade went off, scoring 21 points in the first half to help Miami extend its lead to 14. After one of the worst halves of Sixers’ basketball in over a year, Philly trailed 56-42 at halftime.