76ers Still Can’t Play Complete Game Against Heat: A Fan’s Recap

The Philadelphia 76ers have used a simple formula to win most of their games this season. Sixers fans like myself are used to seeing the team blow an opponent away in the third quarter and win comfortably - even against the likes of the Chicago Bulls. However, there is another common Sixers formula that is much more annoying - their inability to play 48 full minutes against the Miami Heat.

The latest battle between Philadelphia and Miami on Feb. 3 was the best possible chance for the Sixers to prove they were for real. Instead, they did what they always do when they play the Heat - hang around for more than a half and then have nothing left over for the end, as the Heat again pulled away late for a 99-79 victory.

The score was technically pretty misleading, at least for the first 36 minutes. However, the fact that Miami came out ahead wasn't misleading, as the Heat were up for the vast majority of the game. All that the Sixers could do was stay behind by a few points, with the occasional chance to tie or take the lead.

The tide really turned at the very end of the third quarter, when Andre Iguodala made a shot from well behind half court to cut the Heat lead to one. But a play that would have led Sports Center all night was negated since Iguodala technically shot it after the buzzer. From then on in, nothing else went right for the Sixers in the next 12 minutes.

After LeBron James did virtually nothing for three quarters, it made sense that he would have enough gas for the last period - at least more than Philadelphia had. Once he shifted to point guard, he led a 15-0 run that took all of the life out of the Sixers and the Wells Fargo Center.

As per usual, the Sixers did enough to threaten the Heat for a while but didn't have enough to actually beat them. It was almost a direct replay of several playoff games last season and of their last meeting this season on Jan. 21, when Miami won by 21 points on the strength of a dominant second half.

Philadelphia is used to winning this season by pulling away late, but this same tactic has been used against it twice in a row when it has faced Miami. Two golden chances to prove that the Sixers can take the next step have now been wasted - since the best way for Philadelphia to go forward is to beat the team that eliminated it last year.

But the Sixers have failed to do that twice in pretty disappointing ways, with this latest example being the most painful of all. No matter how many wins they can get over the likes of the Bulls, this team still feels incomplete as long as the Heat have their number - and as long as they can't play them for 48 full minutes.

Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.

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Updated Saturday, Feb 4, 2012