Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Sixers fade in home opener
PHILADELPHIA » Bret t Brown felt conflicted. After three quarters of seeing what he called “fantastic signs,” the Sixers head coach saw something else coming at the end of the third quarter Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center.
He saw visions of a scary Oct. 31 night in Milwaukee.
What Brown feared and tried to avoid came to pass for this Sixers team that for this first home game of the season would mostly draw a pass from its long suffering fans. This was the Miami Heat, and even if they were missing one rather noteworthy player this time around, there would be no shame in suffering a 114-96 defeat to them.
You know, no matter how ugly it would be.
For Brown, however, it seemed a shame that he couldn’t help what he calls “my very young team” to suffer a second fourth-quarter meltdown in two nights.
“We were good for three periods,” Brown said. “We didn’t roll over. I’ve seen fantastic signs in our first three games. But the NBA is that good; the players are that good and so unforgiving that you blink, you make two mistakes or three mistakes, and the game’s gone.”
It would fade away in the blur of a 27-13 Heat getaway in the fourth, this after a nifty third-quarter comeback by the guys in an everchanging home team locker room that swear it won’t take long to learn how to play together.
“Look at the numbers,” Brown marveled about his 0-3 team’s latest report card. “We shoot 53 or 52 percent, I think we did that six times last year. That’s fantastic for our team, to be able to shoot like that. We outrebounded them. For three periods, we’re right there.
“Then all of a sudden you blink, and the turnovers compound like they did in Milwaukee last night, and the margin balloons.”
Chris Bosh led the Heat with a 30-point complete performance, supplemented by Mario Chalmers’ 20 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field. Yet these Sixers are marketing themselves in early returns on their ability to defend.
“In any situation where your defense is better than your offense, you’re going to have a good opportunity,” Tony Wroten said. “We’re playing hard on defense.”
For three quarters, anyway. Hard to defend when you keep giving up the ball, though. Wroten led the way for the Sixers with 21 points and Brandon Davies came off the bench to contribute 18.
But Wroten also had four turnovers, which paled to the six giveaways rung up by forward Luc Mbah a Moute.
A good game of secondhalf giveaway is a dead giveaway for what Sixers fans have to look forward to over the next few ... or 40 ... home games or so.
“I think some of it is we were playing a really good team,” Brown said of the LeBron-less Heat. “Veterans that have played hundreds of games with each other late in May and June. Other parts are I thought we fatigued, and we just weren’t good enough. You look at those young kids and the volume of games we played together, we just couldn’t sustain it.”
The Sixers made eight mistakes of the turnover kind in the fourth quarter alone. You’re not going to beat a team like the Heat with that kind of sloppiness holding you back.
“I don’t think it’s fatigue,” Wroten countered. “The coach has made sure we’re going to be in shape. ... This is definitely something we can fix and that’s the positive. We’re going to be building every game.”
While Miami isn’t the same team that came here for a season-opening loss to the 2013-14 campaign, the Sixers were still building support by sticking close early in the game.
What they were also doing was what Erik Spoelstra expected them to do.
“What you see is an incredible motor,” the Heat coach had said. “These guys are active. They play fast, they play hard, they play with incredible speed and exuberance. Even in this young season, what they’ve done is really attack the paint.”
Davies and point guard Wroten did just that. Both had 10 points in the opening half, and despite Bosh hitting a pair of flat-footed threes that contributed to his 18-point first half, the Heat couldn’t put much space between them and the Sixers.
It was tied at 54-54 when Bosh tried, however. He crashed the boards to keep a play alive, then finished it with one of his long-distance heaves to help the Heat get up 60-54 at the half.
But Wroten, who is no point guard but certainly is a player, began to take over the game in the third quarter. The Heat had led 64-56 at one point early in the quarter when Wroten dished to Hollis Thompson for a three-ball that closed the gap to five. Later he found K.J. McDaniels for another three to cut the Miami lead to 77-75, and then dished out to a wide-open Davies for another trey as the Sixers were within a basket.
Finally, Wroten took it to the hoop himself to give the Sixers their first lead of the second half at 82-80.
But the Heat turned up the defense, got the lead back and began to stretch it in the fourth quarter. The Sixers got it back to within four on a pair of Wroten free throws, but Bosh hit a leaping hook to make it 9185, then Chalmers hit a trey to stretch the lead to nine.
It got ugly thereafter. But there’s plenty of time left for ... improvement?