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76ers overcome 23-point deficit to beat Heat

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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MIAMI — Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra insists his team wasn’t looking ahead to its much hyped Christmas Day game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Regardless, his Heat suffered a major breakdown in the second half on Tuesday night, blowing a 23-point lead and allowing the Philadelphia 76ers, owners of the worst record in the NBA, to rally for a 91-87 win at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The 76ers (4-23) received a team-high 20 points from point guard Michael Carter-Williams en route to their second consecutive win.

“First back-to-back wins this season,” said 76ers center Nerlens Noel, who had just one point but a game-high 10 rebounds and two blocks in 29 minutes. “I knew nobody could stop me on the defensive side, so I just tried to rebound the ball.”

Sixers coach Brent Brown was thrilled with the victory.

“The length of our athletes helps,” he said. “It was a fantastic road win.”

Meanwhile, it was an embarrassing defeat for the Heat (13-16) against a 76ers team that had just eight players available due to injuries. But Spoelstra said the reason for the loss was more physical than mental.

“Obviously, that will be a common theme, that we were looking ahead, but I don’t think so,” Spoelstra said. “Do we, halfway through the third quarter, say, ‘Oh, let’s start thinking about the Christmas game?’ That’s not it.

“You have to credit their defense. They threw everything at us and made it tough. You have to credit Carter-Williams. He made it very tough for us to get into our sets. And, on the other end, he was getting anywhere he wanted to go.”

Carter-Williams, a tall point guard at 6-foot-6, had a game-high six steals as the long-armed 76ers forced 20 turnovers, including 14 in the decisive second half.

The 76ers also had 11 blocks — five more than the Heat. The Sixers were plus four on turnovers and plus three on steals, holding Miami to 41.3-percent shooting.

“It was a great win for the team,” Carter-Williams said. “We were short on guys — we were missing real key guys — but we stuck together.”

Miami shot 3-for-15 on 3-point attempts in the second half, including a miss by forward Luol Deng with seven seconds left that would have given the Heat a one-point lead.

Philadelphia outscored Miami 18-9 in the fourth quarter.

The loss meant that the Heat’s home woes continue. Miami already has lost more home games than it did last season, when it went 32-9 in AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat’s home record is now 5-10.

Miami did get good news: Shooting guard Dwyane Wade, who sat out one game due to a knee bruise, returned and scored a game-high 23 points.

However, the loss put a major damper on the Heat’s spirits just two days before James returns to Miami for the first time since he bolted for the Cavaliers in free agency.

Miami clearly isn’t where it wants to be just yet. Spoelstra has started 12 different players this season and has used 13 different starting combinations.

The 76ers have dealt with even more adversity. They have had 22 players on their roster so far due to injuries and personnel moves, but they had enough to beat Miami on Tuesday.

The Heat controlled the game early and led 32-19 after the first quarter. Miami held Philadelphia to 35-percent shooting and just two second-chance points in the period.

The Heat got a boost in the second quarter when backup center Hassan Whiteside, who missed one game after two toenail extractions, returned to the rotation. He had two blocked shots in the quarter.

The scoring in the second quarter came mostly from Wade, who had 11 points to help give Miami a 57-42 lead at halftime.

Miami led 69-46 with 8:12 left in the third. But Philadelphia went on a 32-13 run to cut its deficit to 78-73 after three quarters.

Things only got worse for Miami in the fourth quarter, but Spoelstra is determined to make the needed corrections.

“This league is unforgiving,” Spoelstra said. “I’m not above getting my hands dirty and fighting for it.”

NOTES: Miami is reportedly interested in signing F Josh Smith, who was released by the Detroit Pistons on Monday. … Among Philadelphia’s injuries: SG Hollis Thompson (illness), who sat out his second consecutive game, and SG Tony Wroten (knee). … Philadelphia’s K.J. McDaniels, a 6-foot-6 rookie and the former Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Clemson, is the best shot-blocking shooting guard in the NBA and ranked 12th overall with 1.56 swats per game through Monday. McDaniels, 21, will be a restricted free agent after this season. … All of Philadelphia’s wins have come on the road. The 76ers are 0-14 at home. … Heat F Chris Bosh (calf) missed his sixth straight game and is likely out for Miami’s next contest, Thursday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. … Heat C Justin Hamilton (concussion) sat out. … Philadelphia plays at Portland on Friday.

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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