The Philadelphia 76ers (31-45) up and down season is officially dead as they were eliminated from playoff contention by the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat (60-16) on Saturday night. Just one day after beating the Atlanta Hawks (42-36), to keep the playoff dream alive, LeBron James returned from a hamstring injury and led the Heat to victory.
On Friday night in Atlanta, the 76ers shot out to a 40-26 lead after the first quarter and it was never close after that. Evan Turner led the way with 24 points and 11 rebounds, Spencer Hawes had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Thaddeus Young had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Even Damien Wilkins chipped in 16 points as the 76ers dominated the game from beginning to end and after falling behind 11-10 in the first quarter, never trailed again.
The negative for the 76ers has to be Jrue Holiday, who finished with 9 points on 3 of 14 shooting, just two nights after shooting 2 of 24 against Charlotte. If the 76ers are to become a better team next year, Holiday is going to have to become a more consistent shooter. But, he’ll be ok with an occasional off night if the rest of the team can pick up for him as they did against Atlanta.
Dealing with the Hawks is one thing, but the Miami Heat, defending NBA Champions, are a whole different animal as they’ve shown that they’re more than capable of beating teams with or without its two big stars in Dwyane Wade and James. Those two, along with Mario Chalmers had missed the past few games for the Heat, as the Heat attempt to get healthy for the playoffs after their 27 game win streak ended.
James returned against the 76ers and led the Heat with 27 points on 12 of 17 shooting in just under 31 minutes of play. Jrue Holiday continued his poor shooting as he was 7 of 17 from the field for 18 points while Evan Turner finished with 14 points and Spencer Hawes continued his late season surge with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Its seems as though the team found out about Andrew Bynum being lost for the year and that clicked the ignition for the 76ers as they’ve not played bad for the past few weeks. Poor shooting has been their Achilles heel this year.
When looking at the weekend, you can see that the 76ers can compete with and defeat some of the better teams in the conference, like the Hawks, but when it comes to the elite teams, like the Heat, they still have a long way to go. The Heat have won 15 straight against the 76ers and this past weekend was even harder because James played limited minutes and the team rested Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
As the season comes to a close and the Sixers are faced with the reality of not being in the playoffs after starting the season with such high expectations, they can look towards next season and start seeing which players will be here and which players will have to be gone. What’s been obvious from this past weekend and for the whole season, actually, is that the Sixers are a talented team, but their inconsistency is destroying them.Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers, Sixers, Spencer Hawes