03/15/13 1:42 pm EST
There is no doubt that this has been a very disappointing year for the 76ers in the win column. In addition to disappointing, the 2012-13 season could also be labeled as a bizzare one for this franchise. Off-the-court there has been the continuing mystery that is Andrew Bynum and his aching knees. On-the-court, the inconsistent play of the 76ers has been just as puzzling as Bynum’s knees.
One night the 7-6 get handled by the lowly Orlando Magic at home. The next, the Sixers put up a respectable fight against the Bulls during a tough loss in Chicago. The Sixers beat the Golden State Warriors on a Saturday and lose to the terrible Wizards on Sunday.
You get the picture.
However, there is one on-the-court trend that has emerged for the Sixers in the last three weeks: the 76ers give the Miami Heat competitive games. For whatever reason, Collins & Co. consistently play respectable basketball against the defending World Champions who currently own a 20-game winning streak.
So, the question we put to some of our Philadunkia scribes was, “Why do the wildly inconsistent Sixers give the Miami Heat such competitive games?”
The answers after the jump…
Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers have played relatively close games against the Miami Heat in both of the last two match-ups between the teams, but don’t get over excited about that. First, Miami is 3-0 against the Sixers this year. So, you can hand out an A for effort, but at the end of the day, the 76ers have still blanked in all of their games against LeBron and company. Second, the Heat are scoring 104.7 points per game in the teams’ three meetings this year while the Sixers are averaging just 92.3 points per game in such match-ups. Do these teams really play all that equally?
In regards to the Sixers’ 98-94 narrow defeat at the hands of Miami on Wednesday, the Heat were playing on the second-night of a back-to-back and fighting for their 20th straight win. If that’s not a recipe for tired legs, I don’t know what is. If you combine that with the Heat’s lack of true size in the middle, a slightly fatigued Miami team is a pretty good match-up for the Sixers offensively. As a result, the Sixers shot 47.1 percent from the field—three points better than the season. Yes, it was a fun charade, but don’t buy into that nonsense.
Fact: The 76ers don’t give the Miami Heat trouble. Contrary to popular belief, the 1st possession is as valuable in a game as the last possession. Most nights the Heat don’t adhere to that fact. Miami is a team that is okay with coasting and exerting minimal effort especially against inferior opponents. In their minds and rightly so, a close game at the end is one they will not lose and below is why.
This season in the last 5 minutes of games within 5 points, the Heat are +4 on average. That extrapolates to an absurd +39 over a full 48 minute game. In 3 games against the Heat, our 76ers are a robust -37. The Heat’s average point differential is under 8 points, against the 76ers it’s +12. Lot’s of variables make that an unsteady point of reference, but with all of the other information out there, it still has weight.
On a night when each teams have 87 possessions like the last game, on average the 76ers will score 86 points and the Heat will score 96 points, assuming we are talking about 2 random opponents. Figure in that Miami usually plays teams better than Philly and vice versa, that margin actually grows. That being said, guys are in the NBA for a reason and that is why games can be competitive even if the teams have significantly different still levels. A team like Miami just happens to be a great team who often plays to the level of its competition unless motivated to do otherwise
If anyone disagrees, I’d be happy to send them my copy of ‘Fooled By Randomness’. This is a great book for sports fans to read as there is a high amount of variance in athletics and our minds are predisposed to be results oriented. So while it might feel as though the 76ers play close with the Miami Heat, it’s just your mind playing a trick on you
I believe there are number of factors that contribute to the competitive games we have seen between the Sixers and the Heat this season.
In my eyes there is no doubt that the Sixers seem to play with more energy and more tenacity against the Miami Heat. However I suspect the Heat receive that type of extra effort from nearly every team they face in the NBA. That’s what happens when you are the reigning NBA Champs and you are racking up a 20 game win streak.
I also think that like a lot of great NBA teams, the Heat tend to play down to their competition during the dog days of the NBA schedule — February and March. It’s simply a difficult time of year for winning teams like the Heat to stay motivated against “bad” competition. So I think they have a tendency to glide through the first three quarters of the game and then come alive in the 4th Q to secure a W (MIA is 3-0 vs. Sixers this season).
Still, the Sixers do present some defensive challenges for the Heat and that fact cannot be discounted as a reason for the competitive games between the two teams. The Heat lack a true center and thus do not control the defensive glass as well as most teams do against the 7-6 (13 ORebs last game). Thad is too quick for any of the Heat’s bigs. Jrue scores the ball well against the Heat (21 points twice this year). Even “The Enigma” can find consistent scoring ops against the Heat’s defense – 13.6 ppg this year (right on his season average).
For once Evan Turner isn’t the enigma I’m about to talk about (although he is involved). The enigma is how the Sixers are able to play the 20-games in a row winning team from South Beach so well, when as a team the Sixers have won just 24 games the entire season with the largest win-streak being three games.
In the past two meetings with the Heat this month, the Sixers held leads late into the games and the question amongst Sixers has been, “if they’re able to play the Heat so well…why then do they keep losing to bad teams like the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic?”
There’s a few factors that go into the Sixers’ competitive performances against the Heat. One of the main things is their desire to beat the streak. The Sixers have an incentive to stop the Heats’ historic win streak which would be a notable moment in an otherwise best forgotten season. Looking at the box scores of the past two matchups between them, the play of Thaddeus Young and Dorell Wright are definitely two key components as well.
Thad’s quickness is tough for Chris Bosh to defend and D. Wright has extra motivation to beat the Heat, since he played his first six seasons in the NBA with the Heat. In the last two meetings, Thad scored 25 points and an incredible 24-point, 15 rebounds and three assists effort in the teams latest loss while Wright has had games of 14 points and 13 points while knocking down 6-of-12 from beyond the arc.
If Thad and Wright can play at this high of a level every night, while the Sixers play with extra motivation like they do when facing the Heat…There should be no reason why the Sixers aren’t in every game for the rest of the season.
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