Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sixers fall to Heat again; on the brink of elimination

Philadelphia - Let's just say Doug Collins is a glass-is-half-full type of guy.

"As long as there's a game & we're in it, I think we can win it," Collins said before his 76ers were set to face the Heat in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals set on Thursday. "If you have three Aces, I still
think I can beat you."

He tempers that optimistic side, however, with an astute, realistic basketball mind.

"To play this team [the Heat], you have to play the 48 minutes," the coach said. "That may sound like a trite thing to say but every time we have played them this year, they have had one stretch where they just locked us down."

Realism, as it often does, trumped optimism in Game 3 as the Heat did it again, dominating the Sixers in the fourth quarter at a sold out Wells Fargo Center en route to a 100-94 win.

Dwyane Wade poured in 32 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while LeBron James added 24 points, 15 boards and six assists for the second-seeded Heat, who took a commanding 3-0 lead in the set and will look to sweep the series on Easter Sunday in South Philly.

"It was not pretty, not clean  but we found a way to in and that's the most important thing," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Chris Bosh donated 19 points and six rebounds in the win. Miami's sixth straight over the Sixers in 2010-11 if you include the regular season.

"We knew coming in Game 3 was going to be the most difficult," Bosh said. "We took their best shot. We stayed calm and we eventually settled down and played our style of basketball."

Needless to say, Miami has history on its side heading into Game 4, as no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series.

Elton Brand tallied 21 points and 11 boards for the Sixers, who suffered a 94-73 loss in Game 2 on Monday.

"We know we can play with them," Brand said, "We just have to get a win and stay in the series. Realistically we could have had two of these games. It's discouraging."

Jrue Holiday chipped in with 20 points and eight assists.

"We feel we should have won the game," Holiday said. "Honestly we feel we can win. We feel like we can beat them."

Lou Williams and Spencer Hawes added 15 and 12 points, respectively, for Philadelphia, which has not been swept in a series since the 1999 Eastern Conference semis against Indiana. Andre Iguodala had 10 points and 10 assists but continued to struggle mightily with his jump shot..

The Sixers opened the game with a 9-0 run and led 29-21 after the first 12 minutes. Holiday and Williams each had seven points in the fist frame.

Wade began to "Heat" up in the second quarter and Miami began to make inroads by driving to the basket and drawing contact. The All-Star, who was battling migraines in the first two games of the set, finished with 11 points in the frame and his three-point play with a under a minute to go drew Miami within a bucket, 52-50, at intermission.

The wheels looked like they would fall off for the Sixers early in the third when the Heat took their first lead of the game thanks to a 6-0 run to start the quarter. Jodie Meeks stopped the bleeding with a three to fuel a 12-0 run and Holiday capped the spurt with another trey and Philadelphia led 64-56.

The Sixers couldn't keep Miami off the offensive boards, however, and the Heat were quickly back in the game, evening things at 68 on a Wade putback. Philadelphia eventually took 75-73 advantage into the final frame.

Miami totally took over in the fourth, starting the quarter with a 13-4 run that the Sixers were never able to recover from. The boards, especially the offensive glass, told the story as the Heat outrebounded the Sixers 29-16 in the second half and had 20 total offensive rebounds.

"Twenty offensive rebounds. That's the game," Collins said. "When LeBron and Wade penetrate, they draw bodies."

Ever the optimist, however, Collins still believes.

"Miami is flying home Sunday after the game and we want to fly with them.

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