Friday, March 25, 2011

Sixers visit Miami in possible playoff preview

A possible playoff preview is on tap Friday in South Beach when the Miami Heat play host to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Heat and Sixers would match up in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals if the NBA season ended today but both teams intend to climb up the standings. The third-seeded Heat are just 1 1/2 games behind Boston for the second slot in the conference and 2 1/2 behind Chicago for the top spot. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has set its sights on No. 5 Atlanta after topping the Hawks on Wednesday to climb within 2 1/2 games of them.

The star-studded Heat have responded to a five-game losing streak by winning six of seven, the latest of which came in Auburn Hills on Wednesday when Dwyane Wade scored 24 points, Chris Bosh had 23 and LeBron James added 19 as Miami buckled down in the fourth quarter for a 100-94 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Miami, after trailing by as many as 11, closed the game on a 30-13 run that began when Mike Miller buried a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter.

"You have to give the Pistons some credit," said Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. "They gave us everything we could handle."

Miller scored 13 and the surging Heat stayed in the conversation for the East's top slot. Mike Bibby, making his first start as a member of Miami in place of injured Mario Chalmers, scored five points. Chalmers is expected to miss two weeks with a sprained right knee.

"We were able to get some stops," said Spoelstra, emphasizing the defensive effort. "There is no easy way in this league. If you don't bring your best effort on that side of the floor, then [falling behind] can happen to you."

Lou Williams, meanwhile, led a balanced Sixers attack with 17 points off the bench, as Philadelphia used a big fourth quarter to dispose of the Hawks, 105-100.

Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala both added 16 points for the Sixers, who hold the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of New York.

Jodie Meeks made five three-pointers en route to 15 points for Philadelphia, which has won three of four. Elton Brand donated 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday and Spencer Hawes tallied 12 and 10 points, respectively.

"That was one of the most gratifying wins this season for me," Sixers head coach Doug Collins said.

Miami has won six straight over the Sixers and 11 of 13 over Philly in south Florida. The 76ers are winless in their last five contests at the Heat.

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