For the first time in a week, the Miami Heat had something to celebrate.
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Never mind that it came against the worst team in the Eastern Conference — it was a win, and these days, that’s something for the Heat to savor.
Dwyane Wade had 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds, LeBron James added 20 points and the Heat pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 99-90 on Friday night, snapping a three-game slide and ensuring that they wouldn’t be officially mediocre — .500 — after the first month of the season.
”Not the prettiest game for us all the way through,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”But it was an important game to bounce back, and just remember what it was like to win.”
Chris Bosh scored 18 points and Carlos Arroyo had a season-high 17 for Miami, which struggled for large stretches against a Philadelphia team that’s won only once in 10 road outings. James had eight rebounds and six assists and Arroyo made three of four tries from 3-point range, pushing him to a gaudy 13-for-20 in that department this season.
Miami led by only two entering the fourth, then started the final period on a 12-2 run to build enough of a cushion.
”We’re going to get teams’ best,” Bosh said. ”That’s how it’s going to be all season. … If we had the answers to the test, believe me, we’d have used them a long time ago.”
Jodie Meeks had a huge second quarter and wound up scoring a season-high 21 for Philadelphia (3-13). Andre Iguodala scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Philadelphia, which got 12 from Elton Brand and 11 from Thaddeus Young.
”We were right there,” Brand said.
Indeed – until the Heat got the defense rolling.
With 8:38 left in the fourth, James blocked Meeks’ layup try from behind, demanded the ball going the other way, attacked the rim and got fouled — giving a stunned fan base a chance to roar again.
James made both free throws for a 12-point lead, the Heat bench rose in celebration knowing its three-game losing streak was finally ending, and Spoelstra put his hands on his hips, grinning.
”Have some fun and passion about playing that style of basketball, that’s what we want to do,” Spoelstra said.
The 76ers were down just eight with 3:30 left when Brand missed a 10-footer from the left baseline, and that was their last gasp. Wade scored the game’s next five points, first a three-point play, then a finger-roll after stealing the ball from Meeks to make it 99-86.
”We’ve got to get away from worrying about how we get wins,” Wade said. ”We have to focus on getting wins. Internally, we can’t worry about blowouts. You’ve got to worry about playing well. I think there was some things tonight we can learn from.”
It was Miami’s first win since leading rebounder Udonis Haslem had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left foot earlier this week, a malady that could keep him out the rest of the season. 76ers coach Doug Collins predicted Miami would be flying in an effort to stop its slide, and down the stretch, Collins was proved correct.
”They were able to get out in transition and get a lot of easy buckets,” Young said. ”Dwyane Wade and LeBron got to the cup and finished a couple and-one baskets and got to the free-throw line. That kind of hurt us a little bit. We take that out of the game either we won the game or we’re one point away.”
There’s been a trend recently where an unexpected opposing player — like Paul Millsap did for Utah, Darrell Arthur did for Memphis, Brandon Rush did for Indiana and Brandon Bass did for Orlando – just goes wild for a stretch against the Heat, and winds up playing a key role in Miami getting beaten.
Meeks did his part to add his name to that list. He played 8:38 of the second quarter, instantly becoming a one-man wrecking crew.
Meeks shot 7 of 8 in the quarter, connected on all four of his tries from 3-point range, finishing with 18 points — two more than Wade, James and Bosh had combined in the period.
”Guys just get up to play us,” James said. ”We just have to treat everybody … like they’re All-Stars.”
Miami led 33-21, its biggest cushion to that point, before Meeks took his first shot. By the time he took — and made — his last of the quarter, Philadelphia was within 49-45, and the margin stayed at four entering halftime.
The Heat got the lead back to eight early in the third, and even then, the 76ers weren’t fazed. Meeks’ 3-pointer with 3:23 left got Philadelphia back within 67-65, and the 76ers had four chances later in the quarter to either tie the game or take the lead. They misfired on every one, and Miami took a tenuous 73-71 lead into the fourth, but held the 76ers at bay.
”They put so much work into this,” Collins said. ”It just rips at my gut that they can’t taste a win. They just fought so hard. So hard.”
NOTES: Bosh, on playing in his hometown of Dallas on Saturday night: ”It’s just more ticket requests.” … James has scored at least 20 points in 13 straight games, tying the fourth-longest streak in Heat history. … Meeks’ previous season high was 17. … James again wore a massive wrap around his right leg – the one with the shin problem that’s bothered him for much of the season – at halftime. … 76ers rookie Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, went 0 for 2. … For the second straight game, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. was in the crowd. He watched in Orlando on Wednesday; unlike the Magic fans, the Heat crowd booed him.