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2011 NBA Playoffs: Sixers Avoid Sweep, Beat Heat in Game 4

Apparently, we all can’t jump ahead to the Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics playoff series just yet.

Despite holding a six-point lead with just 95 seconds to go, the Heat let the Philadelphia 76ers send the first-round match-up back to Miami for Game 5 in an 86-82 decision. Miami could not execute offensively for several stretches in the fourth quarter, blowing an opportunity to become the first team in the NBA to advance to the second round.

Jrue Holiday made a deep 3 early in the shot clock to pull the Sixers within 82-81 with 47 seconds left. Because it was early in the shot clock, Dwyane Wade did not even contest the shot, but he should know better. Wade missed a step-back jumper on the Heat’s ensuing possession. Lou Williams made another 3 to put Philadelphia up 84-82. Wade got a hand in his face, but was a little too far away from Williams to make more of a defensive impact.

To send the game into overtime, LeBron James took the ball straight to the rim. But in a sequence strikingly reminiscent of when James missed game-winning shots against the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls in the regular season, Elton Brand partially blocked the shot.

I’m sure that pundits will dissect that last play and question whether Erik Spoelstra should have given the ball to Wade in that situation. Miami managed to score just 16 points in the fourth quarter, though. Wade struggled in the final frame, scoring his only basket of the final period on a tip-in. Spoelstra made the right play to go to James to win the game because the Philadelphia defense constantly sent bodies when Wade made a move into the paint.

This loss overshadows the fact that the Heat played a very good defensive game. The Sixers shot just 41 percent from the field, and Miami recorded five blocks in the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh blocked two Philadelphia shots in one possession. And if the Sixers didn’t make those two 3s, we may have a different conversation now. But the Heat could not execute down the stretch. Miami had the opportunities to win this game with a comfortable edge.

For the third time in four games, the Sixers raced out to an early lead. Philadelphia built a 16-point first-half lead before Miami went on a run to take a one-point lead into halftime. Spoelstra should seriously consider changing the starting lineup because Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mike Bibby are not cutting it right now. Bibby shot 0-for-6 from the field, missing several open jumpers, and Ilgauskas just can’t keep up with the quicker Sixers frontline. If Spoelstra started Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers, Philadelphia would have a harder time getting out to those early leads.

Chalmers did make three 3-pointers, but air-balled two other ones. He missed a 3 with 58.8 seconds left in the game after James faced a double-team after backing down his man and passing out. The Sixers did a good job of double-teaming Wade and James as they reached toward the basket, but the Heat shooters failed to make the defense pay. Miami shot just 5-of-23 from downtown on the night. Eddie House can come off the bench and hit a 3, and perhaps he would have been a better option than Chalmers at the end of the game.

The Heat will have another chance to close it out against the Sixers Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

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