The circus rolled into town Wednesday night, and I’m not talking about Barnum & Bailey. With the star-studded Miami Heat returning to the Wells Fargo Center, fans packed the arena, standing 10 people deep around the Heat side of the floor during warm-ups. Flashes popping and IPhones rolling, the masses called out to their adopted heroes. Cries of ‘LeBron’, ‘D-Wade’, and ‘Ray Ray’ rang out through the arena. There were even plenty of yells for Birdman (which I thought was pretty mean, Chris Bosh can’t help how he runs).
As the action began in earnest, the fans got what they came for. LeBron James was all over the floor, getting out in transition, setting up teammates, and driving aggressively to the rim, including a breath-taking reverse dunk that drew an audible gasp from the crowd. Dwayne Wade went about his business with less flair but equal effectiveness, featuring a lethal mid-range game for which the Sixers had no answer. However, amid all the hoopla, a funny thing was happening: Philadelphia was hanging around.
Following their win against the Hawks in Miami Tuesday night, the Heat arrived in Philadelphia at 4 in the morning. Although the Heat were getting some good efforts from their stars and recording some highlight-reel plays, signs of tired legs were there. The Heat’s outside shooting was off the mark, as they finished just 5-20 from behind the arc. Also, although Miami finished right at their average with 13 turnovers, a lot of them were sloppy passes that seemed to be fatigue-related. The air was ripe for an upset and a couple of Sixers did everything they could to oblige.
The biggest star for Philadelphia was Thad Young, who played one of the strongest games of his career, finishing with 24 points, 15 rebounds, and countless floor burns diving for loose balls. Young displayed his usual brand of hustle while also showing a more refined offensive game, attacking a weak Miami front court time and again with mid-range jumpers and drives to the hoop. The other catalyst was a rejuvenated Jrue Holiday, who finally returned to his all-star form, for really the first time since the Golden State game. Holiday played a complete floor game with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, capping his night with a dunk in the face of LeBron James in the final minutes of the game.
However, down the stretch, the Heat had future hall-of-famers and all-stars who have been battle-tested through world championship runs. After falling behind by 3, the final 16 Heat points were scored by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen. In the other corner, down three with 30 seconds left, Doug Collins drew up a perfect play to get his player a wide open lay-up. Unfortunately for Sixers faithful, that player was not future hall-of-famer Spencer Hawes, and this happened:
And so the Miami winning streak reached 20 games as Philadelphia bowed out in a 98-94 defeat. I’ll say this though, that fourth quarter might have been the best quarter of basketball the team has played all season. They went toe-to-toe with the world champs and came a hair shy of victory. Sadly, they still aren’t giving out trophies for coming up just short, as Philadelphia fans know all too well at this point.