If the first quarter of Game 1 was the good, and the ensuing three quarters of that game the bad, then Game 2 was definitely the ugly. Earning the dubious honor of being the victims of the first blowout of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Philly fell to Miami, 94-73.
Miami cruised wire-to-wire in this one, and the Sixers hardly threatened. They opened the game with an astoundingly cold 20% shooting in the 1st quarter and never recovered. Evan Turner kept the 76ers treading water with 10 of his 15 points in 10 1st half minutes, but it was far from enough to keep the team in contention.
The Heatles have definitely put the bumps of their regular season rehearsal behind them. LeBron led the offensive symphony to a tune of 29 points. Bosh chipped in 21 points on an efficient 9/13 from the field to go with 11 rebounds. Their effort was strong enough for Miami to rest its Big 3 from almost the 5:00 minute mark of the 4th till the final horn sounded.
In my playoff preview, I pointed to the Bosh-Brand matchup as a possible tipping point for the series. Consider the favor of Game 2 definitely tipped. Bosh’s execution at such a high rate, both inside the paint and from the elbow, left the Sixers’ defense reeling; drawing double teams and opening up Miami’s offense. Brand struggled to repeat his Game 1 performance on Monday, totaling only 3 points and 7 boards Monday night.
As far as the Sixers are concerned, the basketball they played on Monday was a collectively terrible. Miami’s offense got everything they wanted and then some, scorching the 76er defense while shooting at a nearly 50% clip. Defensively, the Heat cut off some of Philly’s early opportunities with stingy defense. The Sixers panicked; resorting to a dreadful one pass, one shot offense that left them out of rhythm. Rather than working the ball through Brand, as they have during the regular season’s shooting slumps, they sank further into the isolation quicksand, finishing the night shooting 34% from the field.
Repeat offender Andre Iguodala coughed up his usual “dribble, dribble, pull up jumper from the elbow” attempts far too often. Here’s a peak at Iguodala’s playoff totals thus far:
73 minutes played, 9 points on 4-15 FG (27%), 9 turnovers, 16 assists, 15 rebounds.
Read that one again. There are a lot of lesser-known NBA (or college, or maybe even rec-league) players who could scrounge together such a depressing performance, most of them for far less than $12.3 million a year. He should know better, too. It’s his 7th year in the league, and 4th trip to the postseason. Yet ironically it was Turner, a rookie who has had to hear about his own underperforming all year, who led the way on Monday.
There has never been a better time for Iggy to quell his naysayers than now. On a national stage against a collection of mega-stars, he could have stated made his mark with a strong defensive performance against LeBron and company. He could have used his playoff experience to help the younger players discover that extra gear needed to perform in the playoffs. Instead, he’s taken dumb shots, made careless mistakes, and failed to make a dent in LeBron’s offensive flow. If he wants to be seen as a leader and an A-level superstar, he needs to show more out on the hardwood, knee tendinitis or not.
Nothing’s over till it’s over, believe you me. Philly’s played much better on their home floor compared to on the road this year, and Collins can use the extra day to reel in his team before they mentally count themselves out of the series. The rallying cry, all year, has been resilience. With their backs against the wall and the Miami faithful prematurely headed toward the broom closet, the 76ers need put this game behind them and prove to themselves, as well as their fans, that they haven’t given up on this series yet.