It’s not the 43 minutes of good play, it’s the five minutes when Miami goes on a run that makes it so hard to beat them.
Philadelphia is a seriously good team. At home Friday night they played a close game with last year’s Eastern Conference champions for three quarters. The defense, the ball movement, the balance that makes the Sixers a legitimate Atlantic Division favorite was on display.
But when Miami is at their best — even for a stretch — nobody can hang with them, and when the hurricane is over it’s hard to catch up. Miami went on a 15-0 fourth quarter run to pull away from Philly and win going away 99-79 on Friday night.
It doesn’t diminish how good Philly is — their win over Chicago Wednesday showed how serious a threat they can be.
But when the Heat are executing, they are on another level. And in this game, particularly in the fourth quarter, they did execute. This is not last year’s Heat where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took turns watching each other. There was a great play in the second quarter where Wade was in the post, Shane Battier fed him the ball and cut baseline and got the ball back on a handoff — and Philly sniffed it out and shut it down. Then LeBron James comes cutting down the lane hard from the weakside wing, Battier makes the pass and it’s a huge dunk. With Miami’s athletes, that is almost impossible to defend.
Miami’s 15-0 run in the fourth quarter came with a rarely-used this season lineup on the floor that was their best playoff lineup last year — James, Wade, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. Dwyane Wade had nine fourth quarter points on his way to 26 for the game (Miller had 10 in the fourth, LeBron had 19 for the game).
Expect to see more of that lineup, especially when the games matter more. That is a lineup that on offense can shoot from the outside or slash in the lane, one that on defense can switch everything, is gritty and athletic.
The Sixers couldn’t match it. Not sure any team can when they hit their shots.
Miami has not played like this consistently all season. But this is what makes them so tough — you can do everything right for 40 minutes, then in five minutes it all goes away so fast you don’t realize what hit you. And suddenly the game is all but over.
It doesn’t mean the Heat cannot be beat come the playoffs. This is just a perfect illustration of why that will be so very hard to do.