“I think the first day was a success,” Haslem said.
Philadelphia had five players average double-digits against the Heat, led by Jodie Meeks (17.5) and Louis Williams (14.3).
This Heat team was assembled for “multiple championships,” James insisted when Miami welcomed him, Wade and Bosh last July 9, one day after the two-time MVP went on television to announce he was leaving Cleveland in what’s known as The Decision.
The start was rocky. Miami was 9-8. That’s been long forgotten: The Heat went 49-16 from there, the first sparks of promise seeming to come when the Heat returned to James‘ old Cleveland home on Dec. 2 and won 118-90 in perhaps the most raucous regular-season atmosphere in league history.
“Going back to Cleveland was the thing that got him jump-started,” Collins said. “When they played in Cleveland, it seemed like he and the team took off at that moment.”
The 76ers had a jump-start, too.
They played Miami twice in the season’s first month. Philadelphia lost its season-opener at home 97-87, then fell again Nov. 26 in Miami, 99-90. That one sent the 76ers to 3-13, which was then the NBA’s second-worst record.
Much like Miami’s sputter from the gate, that seems long ago. Over the next four months, the 76ers won 37 of 60 games before losing five of six to end the season.
So here they are, playing with absolutely no burden of expectation.
“They’re dangerous, no question about it,” Wade said. “First two games are in Miami, we’ve got to come out and take care of business.”
That’s been James‘ mantra all season.
He said sleep likely will be tough Friday night, with his emotions already soaring in playoff anticipation. James said he didn’t minimize the importance of the regular season, but it’s not exactly a state secret to know that everything means much more starting Saturday afternoon.
“I’m ready,” James said.
AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia contributed to this story.