Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sixers drop season opener to Heat

By John McMullen

Philadelphia - It wasn't LeBron, D-Wade or Chris Bosh that got the Sixers during Wednesday night's home opener, it was James Jones.

Jones, the slender 6-foot-8 veteran forward, buried four 3-pointers in less than a four-minute span in the second quarter during a 16-2 Miami run and Philadelphia never recovered from there, falling to the Heat, 97-87, in front of a sellout 20,389 at the Wells Fargo Center.

"That Miami team is a really good team to say the least, and they are a terrific defensive team," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "When they put LeBron [James] at the top of the floor with [Dwyane] Wade and they spread you out with those shooters and the pick-and-roll, it's tough to defend. James Jones got hot and hit all those threes which broke the game open in that one stretch."

Jones finished the game with 20 points and tied a career-high by draining six from beyond the arc, while Wade, coming off a miserable 4-of-16, 13-point performance in Miami's season-opening 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

"He was letting the game come to him," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade. "He is a feel type player and I think he felt a lot more comfortable tonight and was able to get to the rim."

James, the reigning two-time NBA MVP, had 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists and was content to play facilitator, although "The King" amassed nine turnovers after recording eight vs. the Celtics last night.

"The biggest difference for us offensively was moving the ball and getting open shots," Spoelstra said of the win. "But, we can't let up like we did in the fourth quarter. We have to be an effort team."

Rookie Evan Turner paced the Sixers with 16 points, seven boards and four helpers off the bench as the team dropped it's fourth straight opener and fifth consecutive game against Miami. Fellow reserves Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams each had 15 points.

The rivalry between the Sixers and Celtics may lay dormant right now but make no mistake, there is no love lost between the two clubs. It's not the same kind of white-hot passion when Wilt and Bill Russell were suiting up or Doc and Larry but the hatred remains.

These days the C's are a legitimate title contender while the Sixers are in the midst of another rebuilding project. Getting off to a good start would have been nice for Collins and Company but that was made
exponentially harder when Boston dispensed of the new-look Heat in the NBA's opener on Tuesday.

Instead of arriving in the City of Brotherly Love lazy and satiated, the Heat showed up on Broad and Pattison angry. Angry at the TD Garden crowd that called them overrated. Angry at the talking heads who turned on them after 48 minutes of basketball, and angry that they had to play for the second time in as many nights.

To be blunt the 76ers were walking into a buzz saw, a hornets' nest that was just stepped on by their long-time nemesis.

To their credit the Sixers hung tough early until an unlikely foil would step up to bite them, Jones.

The Sixers forced eight turnovers in the opening quarter and generated 23 shots to just 13 for the Heat but couldn't take advantage. Philadelphia shot a miserable 30.4 percent in the frame and trailed 18-15. Young and Andre Iguodala were the lone bright spots, combining to go 5-of-6 while the rest of their teammates went 2-for-17.

The 76ers actually took the lead, 26-24, on Young's conventional 3-point play with 9:35 left before intermission but Miami woke up from there, embarking on the 16-2 run with James largely on the bench. Jones punished the Sixers from beyond-the-arc with four 3- pointers during the burst and the Heat led 40-28
with 5 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.

"J.J. [Jones] was unbelievable today," James said. "When Dwyane and I are able to penetrate and we have the long ball going like we did today, our offense is tough to stop."

An Iguodala slam stopped the bleeding momentarily but Philadelphia was unable to make much headway for the rest of the quarter and entered the locker room trailing, 49-41.

The Heat quickly gained control in the third quarter thanks to consecutive turnovers by Jrue Holiday that resulted in back-to-back easy buckets, the second of which put Miami on top, 57-43.

Another barrage of three straight 3-pointers, two by Jones and one by Eddie House, later in the third helped the Heat extend their lead to 80-54 entering the final frame.

The Sixers played a little better in garbage time with Turner showing some of the all-around skill that made him the No, 2 overall pick in June's draft, a nice development considering his poor preseason.

"I had some rough, rough days [in the preseason] so to have a good day is definitely a blessing."  Turner said. "When you see the ball go through the rim and move the ball well things feel good. We never stopped trying to attack."

Game notes: Holiday did not score until hitting a three with just over five minutes left to play and was benched by Collins for most of the third quarter after his back-to-back unforced errors. He finished with six points and five turnovers...Center Spencer Hawes started but did not score in just over 14 minutes. Meanwhile, Jason Kapono started and netted just two points in 13 minutes.

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