The question isn't really whether the Sixers will show the same resolve coming back from a disheartening loss tonight against the Heat as they did in similar situations during the regular season. The question is whether if they do, will it be enough to take down the Heat?
As much as I don't want to do it, I think we have to look at game two if we want to figure out how the Sixers can beat the Heat. The first quarter, in particular. The defense was fine. For most of the first, it was very good. The problems came exclusively on the offensive end, and those problems had to disastrous results: (1) The Sixers lost all confidence; (2) Miami gained a ton of confidence. Here's a look at the Sixers offensive possessions:
The Sixers started off taking bad shots and making mistakes. In their first 9 possessions, they turned the ball over twice, took long twos, and went to the foul line twice, where they shot 1/4. They didn't get their first good look at the hoop until their tenth possession, when Jrue made a nice move but missed the layup. The next time down the floor, Speights missed a dunk. Then Brand missed a bread-and-butter jumper and Jrue missed a wide-open three. Even their next possession when Jodie hit a long two was a mistake. The Sixers were finally in transition, Iguodala had the ball and Jodie was on the wing. Iguodala pushed the ball up the floor and Jodie fanned out to the three point line, but Iguodala rushed the play and gave Meeks the ball too early. What could've been a wide-open corner three turned into a long two.
The cautionary tale here is less about making and missing shots, it's more about composure. The Sixers started off settling, got behind, and then they started rushing things. They took easy hoops and turned them into misses. They were tight. It's like they thought, or knew, that digging a deep hole would bury them, and they forgot the fundamentals. They never stopped, took a breath, and realized their defense was keeping them in it. They got plenty of good looks in that first quarter, shots they normally knock down. Miami's defense was good, but it wasn't otherworldly. If they don't blow three bunnies and hit one of their six threes, they score 22 points on 23 possessions and they're actually winning the game after the first. Miami also isn't pounding their chest thinking about how good they are, they're wondering why the lowly Sixers are hanging with them.
Forget about winning the series, if you were banking on that you were dreaming from the beginning. Miami has arguably the two best players in the world. That being said, by no means are they unbeatable. In fact, the Sixers can beat them. They can beat them tonight if they can execute and maintain their confidence throughout Miami's first run. They have to learn to play with a sense of urgency without letting the pressure make them rush. This is what playoff basketball is all about, it's the reason why playoff experience is so vital.
Doug Collins' main job over these past two days has been to convince his team that they can compete. He's got to show them the mistakes they made and how quickly the momentum turned and then snowballed. Maybe if they can understand what happened, they can avoid repeating it, at least for one night.
The tip is at 8pm. I'll be there, hoping for some home court magic. I'm pretty sure there are still tickets available, so if you're in town, get a ticket. One more chance for the team to surprise us. The game thread will land at 6:30pm.