Shock the world is the common theme any underdog lives by when faced with an insurmountable challenge. In order for the 7th seeded 76ers to beat the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA Playoffs the Sixers will need to “shock the world.” The Sixers did their best on Saturday night in Game 1 to come out firing on all cylinders jumping out to an early lead with a 31-point first quarter. At the end of the first quarter the Sixers led 31-19 leaving most fans in American Airlines Arena feeling like they were witnessing a potential upset instead of witnessing “greatness,” or whatever Prince James is suppose to resemble.
"We know it's not going to be easy," said Sixers guard Lou Williams. "So we just know - it's no secret."
The Heat turned it on in the second quarter outscoring the Sixers 35-19 sending them into halftime with a 54-49 lead. But the Sixers battled all game long despite losing that early edge. With 2 minutes remaining in the game the Sixers had the ball down 90-87. Elton Brand missed a routine 15-foot jumper and virtually sealed the win for the Heat 97-89.
Although the Sixers were unable to pull off a miraculous Game 1 win in Miami they proved that they were capable of hanging with the best in the East and should not be taken lightly. There is no reason to doubt the ability of this young 76ers team as Game 2 proceeds tonight in Miami.
Coach Doug Collins was quick to point out the stats that pointed to how hard his team played on Saturday night. The Sixers staunch D held Miami’s dynamic duo LeBron James and Dwayne Wade to a combined 10 of 27 from the floor , all while holding the entire Heat team to 41.9% shooting from the floor and 23.5% from beyond the arc.
The Sixers committed only 9 turnovers as a team and forced 14. Reserve star Thaddeus Young did his part again by contributing 20 points off the bench. Jrue Holiday played 39 minutes without committing a single turnover, that is the definition of an excellent stat.
The fact still remains the Sixers lost Game 1 in this best of seven series and look to avoid a two game hole tonight as they return to American Airlines Arena. They still have a chance to even the series up before heading back to Philly for Games 3 and 4 Thursday night and Sunday afternoon.
The biggest storyline heading into Game 2 revolves around one of the Heat’s “Big 3” Dwayne Wade. Wade was forced to miss practice on Sunday suffering from migraine headaches. Having missed game before due to migraines it is uncertain whether he will suit up for the Heat in Game 2.
In order to head back to Philly with a split the Sixers must play with the intensity that they exhibited in Game 1. The same fire this young team showed in the first quarter of Game 1 must be maintained throughout, especially in the second quarter where they allowed the Heat to take control of the game Saturday night. Iguodala did a tremendous job shutting down James and must continue his stellar defense. He must also provide some much needed scoring on the offensive side of the ball. Iguodala finished with only four points in Game 1.
"We need some more points from him, we do," said Collins after yesterday's practice. "He got us four points in Game 1. We got the ball in his hands a lot, he did get a lot of assists for us [nine] and eight rebounds. But with our team, right now, and with Lou trying to get himself back, we're going to need some points from him."
Lou Williams and Elton Brand will also be key contributing factors to the success of the Sixers tonight. After straining his hamstring in early April, Lou Williams has missed significant time. Saturday night was his first game action in more than two weeks and his 3 for 10 shooting attested to that. Williams seemed to progress as the game went on and should be more of a scoring threat for the Sixers in Game 2. Collins calls Lou “the Voice” of the Sixers and his leadership on the court is going to prove to be very beneficial in the remaining games.
Brand is the true veteran of this young team and has proven in 2011 that there is more left in the tank for this 11-year big man. After jumping out to an 11 point first quarter performance Brand only provided 6 points the rest of the game. The Sixers will need consistent scoring from Brand to steal a win in Miami. Regardless of who Collins thinks the ball should go to in late game situations Elton Brand and Lou Williams are the most capable of taking and making a big shot in clutch situations. Collins should look to run his offense through Brand and Williams in the final minutes.
Game 2 is set for tonight at 7:00 in Miami.