Miami fends off scrappy 76ers
Chris Bosh and LeBron James watched from afar when Dwyane Wade controlled the final portions of games during the Miami Heat's championship run in 2006.
They got a closer look Saturday, when Wade helped save Miami from a Game 1 collapse.
Bosh had 25 points and 12 rebounds, James added 21 points and 14 rebounds and Wade scored five of his 17 points in the final 1:34 as the Heat held off a huge Philadelphia comeback attempt and beat the 76ers 97-89 in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
''The only number that matters right now is 1-0,'' Wade said. ''That's all it's about.''
Game 2 is Monday night.
Thaddeus Young had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, while Jrue Holiday added 19 and Elton Brand finished with 17. It was the second time in 22 days Philadelphia blew a big second-quarter lead in Miami. On March 25, the 76ers led by 16; on Saturday, the margin was 14.
The Heat won both and are now 4-0 against the 76ers this season.
''Second time in three weeks that we had a big lead and let it slip,'' Brand said. ''Right now, it's the playoffs. Win these games or go home. So, it's more of a discouraging feeling knowing that we could have won these games.''
Also much like that March 25 game, Philadelphia gave itself a shot down the stretch.
The 76ers scored 12 straight points in the fourth quarter, closing to 88-87, but never getting the lead back. Bosh made two free throws and Wade hit a tough bank shot to give Miami a five-point edge. After Young scored Philadelphia's final points with 1:24 left, Wade sealed it with a pair of foul shots 14 seconds later.
''We'll take this first win,'' said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team has won 16 of its last 19 games overall. ''Hopefully, who we've been the last few weeks will be more who we'll be the rest of the series, particularly offensively. We were not very efficient tonight.''
Wade, Bosh and James all were held under 50 percent shooting and Miami won anyway, in large part because they held big edges in rebounding (52-39) and free throws.
Sixers coach Doug Collins spent much of Game 1 pointing out the game's free-throw discrepancy to the officiating crew, as Miami finished 31 for 39, while Philadelphia was only 12 for 15.
Afterward, he craftily took the high road.
''I could,'' Collins said, when asked to explain the more than 2-to-1 difference. ''My grandkids would lose their college fund. So, I'll have to dance around that one. I can't respond to that.''
What was clear, however, was that Philadelphia's fouls in the second quarter helped change the game.
''It's kind of discouraging,'' Holiday said, ''But at the same time, we know we just have to keep at it. ... Calls are made and we have to fight through that.''
Just like the teams' last regular-season meeting March 25, the 76ers came out flying. They made eight of their first 10 shots, eventually running out to a 25-11 lead. At period's end, it was still 31-19 Philadelphia, on 61 percent shooting compared to 32 percent by Miami.
Miami outscored Philadelphia 35-18 in the second quarter and kept the lead the rest of the way, though it was far from easy.
''No team is just going to lie down,'' Bosh said. ''You're not going to play an 82-game season and work this hard just to lie down when you get there. They're a very gifted team. ... We do expect this series to have all close games. As long as we prepare for that and get that in our minds, we'll be fine.''
Since the NBA went to best-of-seven opening rounds in 2003, No. 2 seeds that win Game 1 of their quarterfinal series have advanced 12 of 13 times, the lone exception being Dallas against San Antonio last year.
And when James and Wade get to enjoy 1-0 series leads, things tend to work out for them. The Heat have advanced all five times when taking a 1-0 lead with Wade on the team, while the Cleveland Cavaliers won seven of eight series with James after winning Game 1s.
''It's the postseason,'' James said. ''Just try to do whatever it takes to win.''
Brand's rebound and short jumper with 7:58 left got Philadelphia within seven — the margin had been 16 late in the third quarter. Wade went to the bench 38 seconds later with his fifth foul, but Miami stretched its cushion to 88-75 on a three-pointer by James Jones, followed by James extending both arms skyward.
It was far from over, though Miami found a way to escape.
''It looked like they were going to run us out,'' Collins said. ''But we fought back.''
NOTES: Udonis Haslem (foot) was inactive for the Heat, though there's hope he'll return in these playoffs after being sidelined since November. ''That's probably, for me, the biggest disappointment of this regular season, was the fact that our warrior, our heartbeat, had to miss so much of it,'' Spoelstra said. ... Collins said he saw Heat owner Micky Arison on Saturday, who told him the franchise had been waiting since summer for these playoffs. ''For us, this is the moment we've earned,'' Collins said.