Heat continue to roll, blowout 76ers for third straight win
PHILADELPHIA—Fresh off his MVP Award at the All-Star Game, Dwyane Wade didn’t have much time to relax with the Heat (27-27) regrouping after the break for Tuesday’s game against the 76ers (20-33) at the Wachovia Center. The game began a tough four-game road trip during the next five days for Miami, but the Heat were able to get plenty of rest for their starters in this one though, taking a 27-point lead to the fourth quarter before closing out the 105-78 blowout.
After a season-worst five-game losing streak had Wade calling out his Heat teammates and coaches for scoring lulls in his absence and a predictable, lackluster offense that opponents stopped regularly. They seemed to get the idea. Miami has now blown out their last three opponents by a total of 78 points to take solo control of the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
After struggling for much of the season, the Heat’s reserves have been on a rampage during the team’s three-game winning streak. Miami’s bench has scored a combined 129 points during that stretch, including a 36-point performance against Philly.
Though the 76ers have struggled at the Wachovia Center this season (9-17), they had won six straight against the Heat at home and 16 of 18. That trend came to a sudden halt as a poised Miami squad came ready to play.
The opening minutes of the game were dictated by the defense as both teams opened 1-7 from the field. Michael Beasley recorded three quick shot-blocks at the start of the contest for Miami, playing without a knee brace for the first time since hyper-extending his left knee last month. The second-year forward showed no signs of the injury and played one of his better games of late. Quentin Richardson bounced back from his 2-point performance against Atlanta last week to lead all scorers at the end of the first quarter with 8 points. Richardson finished the contest with his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The contest was close through one, but the Heat controlled the pace and took a 23-21 lead into the second quarter. From there a 20-5 explosion to open the second pushed Miami’s lead to 17 behind the strong play of their reserves and all but sealed the victory.
With Dwyane Wade resting, Udonis Haslem, Dorell Wright, and Daequan Cook continued to thrive off the Heat bench after solid performances leading up to the All Star Break. The three combined for 14 points in the quarter while Miami dominated both ends of the floor to take a 46-35 lead into halftime. The Heat held the 76ers to .349 shooting in the first half as they cruised to the break playing some great team ball.
They needed very little from the All Star Game MVP. Wade left the court with his team up 2 after the first quarter and returned with just under four minutes to go in the second with a comfortable 13-point lead. Wade finished the game with 24 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds in just 29 minutes.
Andre Iguodala did his best to keep Philly in it, with 11 points in the half, but he got little support from his teammates; none of whom went to the break with double digit points. Iguodala struggled the remainder of the game however and was held scoreless in the second half as Wright and Richardson managed to put a handle on the 26-year old guard coming out of the break. It was a second half the Sixers sourly missed his usual production.
In the Heat’s previous three games, Beasley averaged just 7.3 points on .312 shooting, but he did manage to build on that with a strong third quarter. After scoring just 2 points in the first half, Beasley scored the first 6 for Miami to open the third quarter. Beasley finished with 12 points in 20 minutes to shake off his recent struggles, but he still looked a bit shaky at times. Maybe its all the Amare Stoudemire trade talk and maybe its his rusty knee, but Beasley doesn’t appear to have a lot of confidence in himself right now.
While it was Miami’s reserves who led the early charge, it was the starting five who put the contest away for good. The Heat stretched their lead to as many as 31 late in the third amid a 21-1 run that had boos raining down on the 76ers from a frustrated home crowd.
Wade came to life midway through the period and started attacking the rim after taking a backseat to his teammates in the first half. He had 15 points in the quarter, with 4 buckets in the paint, doing his best to put the contest away early and rest up for Wednesday’s game against the Nets. Jermaine O’Neal chipped in with 8 points in the quarter before finishing the contest with 20 points on 10-15 shooting. He joined three other Heat starters who reached double figures scoring before the fourth quarter.
With a 79-52 lead through three, Miami was able to let their reserves play out the all but decided contest. O’Neal was the only starter who made it onto the court for the Heat after a dominating 33-17 third quarter. He continued his strong game with 6 points in the period to boost his numbers, but with the Heat up big and getting ready for the second night of their back-to-back set, you had to wonder why coach Eric Spoelstra kept him on the court for so long.
One of the lone bright spots on the evening for Philadelphia, Thaddeus Young scored 16 points in the contest off the 76ers bench on 8-14 shooting. Young and Iguodala were the only members of the 76ers to finish the game in double figures scoring as the team shot just .379 from the field. By the time Miami pushed their lead to a game-high 32 with just over five minutes to play, the stadium was nearly empty with the lifeless home team limping to the finish line for a second straight loss.
Miami is playing their best ball of the season right now and while they’ve struggled un the second night of back-to-backs this season (3-9), they draw the hapless New Jersey Nets (5-48) who have managed to win only 3 of their 24 games at home this season. If the Heat can maintain just a portion of their recent production, they should climb back over .500 for the first time since Feb. 1.
Philadelphia will look to rebound from their recent two-game skid on Friday when they’ll face the San Antonio Spurs (30-21). After the Spurs, the 76ers will play their next four on the road, where they’ve actually played better than at home this season.
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