The Dwight Howard era in Los Angeles has finally commenced.
It was a big day in the NBA Playoffs yesterday for numerous reasons with mixed emotions for fans of all teams involved. The Sixers and Knicks were trying to avoid being swept, while the Hornets and Magic were attempting to tie their respective series. Fresh off our first podcast where we made our predictions, the Hoop Diary family were certainly giving their League Pass accounts a good smashing.
First up was Game 4 between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers, where the Heat were looking to be the first team into the second round. You could almost forgive the Sixers, being such a young team if they came out with a lack of intensity being down 0-3 but this was not the case.
From the very first possession, Philadelphia played with a sense of urgency getting in passing lanes, rebounding well and finding good shots. Within the first five minutes they were up 14-4 and forced the Heat into the first timeout of the game. Probably the most exciting element to these Playoffs for Sixers fans is the emergence of Jrue Holiday who has some really nice skills with and without the ball. Another really positive sign has been the play of Evan Turner who has seemingly relished some increased opportunity during this series.
In my opinion, LeBron James looked like the only Heat player who was truly “switched on” for almost the entire first half. Chris Bosh hit a couple of open shots but had Elton Brand all over him on both ends of the court. A distinct lack of awareness was making the Sixers look like the number two seed, not the number seven.
It all found some familiarity after Dwyane Wade got floored by a Brand screen. Jumping straight back up with a stare for Brand, Wade immediately took it to the Sixers and led a fierce 22-2 run that brought the Heat back to lead 47-46 at the half.
The third quarter started exactly how the Heat didn’t want with a return to lethargic defense, poor passing, poor rebounding and a missed shots, unless of course LeBron James or Dwyane Wade were involved. The most amazing element to Miami’s Playoff run so far is their ability to play well for as little a three minutes in quarters and still remain competitive. At some point you would think that style will undo them if it continues.
The third quarter ended somewhat predictably with a James “and one” and a Heat two point lead. The difference in the fourth was Philadelphia’s crowd and Miami’s continued flirtation with lazy play. While LeBron and Wade put forth good effort and hustle, the rest of the lineup were seemingly already considering what Boston had to offer. The Sixers who were down by six with 1:30 remaining hung on to win a classic behind big shots from Turner, Holiday and Lou Williams and a massive defensive play by Elton Brand.
A huge three to take the lead, a huge block to seal the game, a 10-0 run in crunch time and an amazing win that Philadelphia’s young roster will clearly benefit from.
Now it’s back to Miami for Game 5, where the Heat will need to increase their work rate for longer stretches of game time to advance.
Something tells me the Heat do that.