PHILADELPHIA - Five takeaways from the Heat’s demoralizing 104-102 loss to the 76ers that left Miami at 30-28 heading into the All-Star break:
• This was pretty devastating, Miami somehow frittering away a 24-point second half lead, allowing the 76ers to annihilate them on the boards (60-29) and in the process falling 1 ½ games behind No. 7 Philadelphia, while clinging to just a 1.5 game lead over No. 9 Detroit.
And yet, when it was over, even when Philadelphia had completed its largest comeback victory in 10 years, the Heat insisted that the sky is not falling, that this stretch of seven losses in eight games is not who they are.
"We've got everything we need," said Dwyane Wade, whose 27-foot three-pointer rimmed off at the buzzer. "It's a very good team. We’re going to give ourselves a chance to win every night.
“We just have to be a little bit better overall. It's there. We've just got to complete games, finish games. These last two games we played, hard fought games. We've just got to find a ways to be a little bit better in these games."
Erik Spoelstra said: "I like our team. I think we’re a very good team. We have great potential, I think we have great upside. We’re closer than it looks right now but that’s our margin of error also. We’re built different than some of the top teams in both conferences. We have to play to an identity consistently. We need multiple contributors in the same game. That’s just how we’re built. We capable of getting over this hump and I believe we will."
Said Goran Dragic: “Most of the teams, they would want to be in this position that we are.”
• Despite the show of optimism, it’s impossible to gloss over this second-half debacle, with the 76ers closing the game on a 60-34 run. The 76ers had a stunning 31-9 rebounding advantage in the second half and a 14-3 edge in second chance points.
So how does this happen?
"It was tough blocking out, it was tough going up and getting it with two hands," Spoelstra said. "Several where we touched the ball but didn’t come down with. Sometimes we wouldn’t come down strong enough in bounds. Then our guards also were running in instead of trying to corral some of the long rebounds. That’s a tough lesson. We’ve rebounded much better than that."
Wade said the 76ers "sent all four [to the boards] when other guys shoot."
Hassan Whiteside had 10 boards, but more was needed on a night he faced Amir Johnson instead of injured Joel Embiid.
Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson had only one rebound apiece, compared with seven apiece for their counterparts in the 76ers starting lineup, Robert Covington and JJ Redick.
"It's a team thing," Whiteside said. "They were rebounding at other positions. It wasn't just their center rebounding. It was their forwards, their shooting guards We got to box out, man."
What’s more, Bam Adebayo had only two rebounds in 19 minutes. Even on a night James Johnson was a force offensively (22 points, five assists), he was angry with himself because he had four boards in 21 minutes.
"We didn't execute boxing out well at all," Johnson said. "That goes for me at the start of it. Coach couldn't even keep me in the game the last few [minutes] because I was giving up rebound after rebound. I've got to do a better job of boxing out, as well as everybody else has to do a better job of boxing out, especially on long shots."
• Whiteside’s playing time clearly remains a frustration for him.
Asked in what ways he will push himself to do more after the break, Whiteside surprisingly responded: "Get more playing time, trying to be out there a little more."
Whiteside had 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 28 minutes, but had just one rebound (and no points or shots) in a key 5:27 stint down the stretch, during which the game went from tied to Philadelphia up five.
• Johnson’s play this month has been encouraging. The Heat badly needed the forceful, efficient fill-the-box-score Johnson that was such a vital component of last year’s 30-11 finish and earned him a four year, $60 million contract.
Johnson has looked more like that player in the past two weeks – with 18 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds against Detroit, a 16 point, 7 rebound game Tuesday in Toronto and a sharp performance Wednesday.
Johnson opened five for five from the field, scoring on a hook, a jumper, a three-pointer, a slicing move to the basket for a layup and foul and another layup. His offense – and a steal and pass to Tyler Johnson for a layup – helped orchestrate a 9-2 run that pushed Miami’s lead to 44-27 in the second quarter.
Then he led Miami in both points (nine) and assists (four) after halftime as everything seemed to be falling apart around him.
• Wade’s third game with the Heat was uneven: 4 for 13 shooting, eight points, three rebounds, two assists, a steal but four turnovers and misses on both his free throws.
His two baskets pulled the Heat to within one with 1:26 left but he missed a three with 44 seconds left and then barely missed the one at the buzzer.
"If I could have paused it in mid air, I would have bet all my contracts on it [going in and] and I would have been broke right now," Wade said of that final shot. "I thought that was in. To be at the end of the game and execute the way we did, got the shot that the defense kind of gave us in a sense, that's what we needed and that's what we're going to have to do coming down the stretch."
Said Spoelstra: "Goran gave him a terrific pass. The ball wasn’t bouncing for us on that last play, [but] to be frank with you we didn’t deserve it when you get crushed that badly on the glass and all the loose balls. When you add up the loose balls and the glass there was probably 75-29 where they won those categories and this game usually rewards the team to the ball first and they were."
Two other Heat posts from Wednesday:
Here was the Heat’s heartfelt reaction to the tragic Broward school shooting on Thursday.
Here’s one thing Wade wants to change from Cleveland and some insight into how the trade for him came down.