By Joseph Goodman, McClatchy Newspapers –
PHILADELPHA — It was the Miami Heat Dwyane Wade and LeBron James envisioned when they came together in the summer of 2010.
Finally, with eight minutes left against Philadelphia on Friday night, the long-awaited lineup of Wade, James, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem was on the court and fully healthy. Man, was it magical.
It only took five minutes for that lineup to blow open an otherwise competitive game and run off 15 straight points. The end result was a convincing 99-79 victory against the streaking Sixers, which celebrated an impressive win against the Bulls just two days earlier in the same building.
“That’s the lineup that we all brought here to play,” Wade said. “That was the lineup everyone who decided to sacrifice to come back here, what we envisioned, so anytime we can get that lineup on the court, it’s a versatile lineup and we can run different things and do different things and it’s a good rebounding lineup as well.”
The Heat (17-6) led by just eight points when James checked into the game for rookie Norris Cole, inheriting the point guard duties. Minutes later, Wade’s back-to-back dunks put the Heat ahead by 23 points. Wade had nine points in the fourth quarter, James had six assists and the Heat emerged with newfound confidence only one game after blowing a huge lead to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Probably the best game from start to finish communicating this season,” said James, who finished with 19 points to go along with 12 rebound and eight assists.
Wade led the Heat with 26 points, shooting 10 of 20 from the field. It was his best all-around game since returning from his sprained ankle.
Lots of scoring
Six players scored in double figures for the Heat, including Mario Chalmers (13), Bosh (12), Mike Miller (12) and Cole (11). Thaddeus Young led the Sixers (16-7) with 16 points off the bench.
“It was a very good team win against a team that was playing very well,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Miller led the Heat with 10 points in the fourth quarter. He finished 5 of 7 from the field and 2 of 3 from three-point range. Overall, the Heat was 8 of 13 from three-point range. Chalmers was 3 of 4 from behind the arc.
“It’s an opportunity to be out there and play with those guys,” Miller said of the Heat’s successful crunch-time lineup. “It makes it a little easier for me. Whenever you’re out there with Dwyane, LeBron and (Bosh), they make the game easier for you.”
It also helped that the Heat only had nine turnovers, a season low. The Heat was averaging 19 turnovers in its previous four losses.
The lineup of James, Wade, Bosh, Miller and Haslem was featured in the playoffs last season but Miller and Haslem were injured. Friday was the potential of the lineup finally realized, according to James.
“It’s been a long time coming,” James said. “We played that lineup in the postseason but it wasn’t healthy.”
Ups and downs
Of course, it wasn’t a flawless performance from start to finish. As if anyone wanted to be reminded of the Heat’s second half on Wednesday in Milwaukee, the Heat began the second half in Philadelphia 0-10 from the field and 0-2 from the free-throw line. The Heat managed just 37 points in the second half against the Bucks.
Bosh snapped the drought with 6:52 left in the period, increasing the Heat’s lead to four points. step-back three-pointer by Cole with 8:45 to play gave the Heat an 11-point lead. Cole had eight points in the first half. For perspective, the Heat had seven points off the bench on Wednesday against the Bucks. The reserves had 27 points against the Sixers.
A daring drive by Jrue Holiday into the teeth of the Heat’s defense cut Miami’s lead to 79-71 but the game never got any closer.
Haslem made a jumper from the top of the key with 6:13 to give the Heat an 83-71 lead and a trickle of fans began heading for the exits. Miller and James both followed with 20-foot jumpers and the Heat’s lead ballooned to 17.