While it had to come sooner or later, most fans would have preferred the later considering Miami's opponent. The Philadelphia 76ers are considered to be one of few teams taking the "tanking" route this season, hoping for few wins and more chances at a high lottery pick. They had a strong showing against the NBA's defending champions, which should ultimately be an early red flag for the Heat.
It goes without saying that every NBA team needs some time to shake off the rust and get back into form for the season. After months of training and practices, playing actual games becomes a completely different environment for players. With that being said, the Heat are returning as back-to-back champions with the same roster, leaving little room for adjustment in terms of running their offense and defense successfully.
You could point to the Heat arriving in Philadelphia at just past 3 a.m., in addition to playing back-to-back games after their victory against the Chicago Bulls in Miami. LeBron James and Co. were also without superstar Dwyane Wade but still had a stronger roster than Philadelphia. Miami was able to take care of business against a strong playoff team like the Bulls, yet dropped to a team expected to finish last in the conference.
What it comes down to is the Heat's mindset as being the defending champs. It was obvious from the tipoff that they did not respect the 76ers as a challenge, which became an issue as they allowed 33 points in the first quarter. Miami was down 19 points before scoring a single one of their own, going 6-of-19 shooting in the opening period.
The Heat managed a monstrous 80 points in the second and third quarters combined, knocking down an astonishing 10 three-point jumpers in the third quarter alone—with four consecutively from Ray Allen, including this half-court heave.
Whether their spectacular comeback got to their head, or fatigue took over, Miami finished the fourth quarter with 16 points to Philadelphia's 29, and in turn was handed a surprising loss. A number of variables can be examined to explain the Heat's loss, and ultimately in the course of this season this will hardly be a focal point. The second game of the schedule is rarely looked back on when a team reaches its 82nd, so the cause for alarm is minimal.
However, their lack of focus was obvious down the stretch, and cannot become a trend this season. A multitude of teams in the East got a lot stronger in the offseason, notably the Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers. Again it might be an overreaction to a loss; however, Miami has to bring a level of intensity and concentration to every game.
The Heat are notorious for being relaxed and laid-back until it matters, but their quest for a three-peat can't carry that same level of passiveness. The target on their backs is bigger than ever, and last year's title run had a plethora of close-to-elimination games that were too close for comfort for most Miami fans.
The most important thing to understand is that this game alone does not set off the alarm bells for the Heat. It is, however, the first step in what could be a disturbing trend for Miami, similarly to the first year of the Big Three as they started the season with a 9-8 record.
An appearance in the NBA Finals that year made their start to the season negligible, and the same will ultimately transpire this season. Yet the Heat need to check their egos at the door to dominate the league in a group of powerhouses chasing a title.
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