By Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel –
MIAMI — The script for this one was as odd as the Miami Floridians throwback uniforms the Miami Heat wore for Saturday night’s 113-92 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at AmericanAirlines Arena.
LeBron James went deep into third quarter without a free-throw attempt, having attempted at least two in every previous appearance with the Heat.
Joel Anthony at one point in that third quarter had two more shot attempts than James, despite seemingly having at least three of his shots blocked by the rim.
And, yes, the Heat are now 6-0 in the absence of Dwyane Wade, with a 5-4 record with the All-Star guard in the lineup.
Through it all, the Heat now have followed up their recent three-game losing streak with a 3-0 start to this five-game homestand that continues Sunday against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
And these were not three throwaway victories, but rather wins against quality competition in the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and 76ers.
“We looked at this as a huge week, a huge opportunity for us to get back on a roll,” James said.
The 76ers, as scrappy as they were in last season’s five-game opening-round playoff loss against the Heat, proved the 11-4 record they carried into the night was no fluke.
They kept it close until the Heat finally began to pull away with a 12-4 run at the end of the third quarter, which produced an 81-69 lead entering lead into the fourth.
From there, the Heat pushed their lead to 19 before the 76ers closed within 11 before ultimately fading.
“We were able to get to our identity and activity defensively,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And offensively, for the most part, the ball was popping, was moving.”
Power forward Chris Bosh, who reached 12,000 career points with his 12th point of the night, paced the Heat with 30 on 11-of-19 shooting, adding seven rebounds.
James, who did not make it to the foul line until 3:15 remained in the third quarter, added 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
“We have to,” James said of how he and Bosh have helped the Heat overcome Wade’s absence. “With a 25-point scorer on the bench in street clothes, we’ve got to step up.”
Combined, the two shot 23 of 36 from the field and 11 of 11 from the foul line.
“They’re special players,” Spoelstra said, “and they’ve been in that role before, where a lot is asked of them.”
Bosh said his production was a product of the overall offense.
“We believe in our offense,” he said. “We feel that when we move the ball, when we get stops first and then we’re out in the open court in transition and being aggressive, we feel that we cannot be stopped.”
But this was more than the power of two.
In many ways, the Heat took the ensemble script and flipped it on the 76ers, with Anthony, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Mike Miller all offering timely contributions.
Anthony finished with nine points and nine rebounds. Chalmers, who was particularly scrappy on defense, had eight assists. Haslem added 10 rebounds, Battier rugged defense and Miller a pair of 3-pointers.
The Heat shot 7 of 16 on 3-pointers, continuing their recent torrid shooting from beyond the arc.
“Obviously when people have to worry about shooters outside, it spaces the floor,” Miller said.
James said the key is for the 3-point shooters to continue to pull the trigger.
“Their confidence level is going to help our team,” he said.
Having thrived all season without a go-to scorer, the 76ers, who defeated the Atlanta Hawks at home on Friday night, simply ran out of steam, despite a 14-point first-half contribution from second-year guard Evan Turner, who closed with 16 points.
Reserve guard Lou Williams paced the 76ers with 22 points.
The Heat simply wore down the 76ers, closing with a 52-31 edge on the boards.
“It feels good, but we feel that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, to be honest with you,” Bosh said of the recent success. “We just have to keep improving.
“We’re going to keep trying to get better. Championship is on our mind and in order to do that, we’re going to have to beat the best teams.”
The Heat were somewhat passive early, attempting 11 3-pointers but only nine foul shots over the opening two periods. The aggression increased from there.
“They were ready tonight,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said of the Heat. “They were very, very sharp from the start. We hung around and fought there a little bit. They wore us down.”
With the 76ers lacking injured starting center Spencer Hawes, the Heat did not play center Eddy Curry a game after he made his season debut, his first action in more than two seasons.
The 76ers got an early boost from center Nikola Vucevic, who was filling in for Hawes. Vucevic had seven points and four rebounds in the opening period, with 11 points at the half.
But Vucevic, the only center the 76ers had used to that point, then went to the locker room midway through the third quarter with a strained left knee. Vucevic had 13 points, nine rebounds when he left.
James is now 16-1 in his last 17 games against the 76ers, including playoffs.
Wade had led the Heat in scoring in 20 of the previous regular-season meetings against the 76ers.