The first six minutes of last night’s eventual rout were wildly entertaining, if only for the fast-paced style that Sixer fans of roughly three years ago were accustomed to. The Sixers and Heat romped up and down the court for 6 minutes to start, with high energy to go around.
Yet, as pointed out yesterday before the game by Jared Dubin over at Hardwood Paroxysm, the Sixers don’t play at a high pace. They’re 22nd in the league in pace: they grind down their opponents on both ends of the floor, whether it’s through slowing down the opponent’s fast breaks (by sending back two players consistently off missed shots or by not turning the ball over) or by slowing themselves down (through snail-paced offensive sets which often take the entire shot clock to materialize into anything).
Through those first 6 minutes or so, the Sixers looked like the Heat’s equals. But in the fourth quarter, they played their normal half-court style and got stymied. I think that the normal Sixers style of 2012 hurt them – the Heat have a more athletic roster than any team, with players that can fly around the court. The Heat matched the Sixers tit for tat while defending their sets, forcing tough looks and rushed shots. They coerced the Sixers into more one-on-one basketball than we’d like, and we’re not good enough to pull out a win against the league’s best playing that style. With all those missed shots, the Heat were able to then get whatever they wanted against an unprepared defense.
The Sixers, meanwhile, did not attempt to pick up the pace in the fourth quarter. They actually tried slowing down. While I disagree with the decision, I see the reasoning: the Heat play fast better than anyone too, and in order to stop them you can’t give them easy looks in transition.
In other words, the Sixers can’t play their normal style and beat the Heat. They’ll have to find another way. And to be honest, I don’t know what that way is.