By Peter Gleason
That giant sucking sound you heard last night at the Wells was the Sixers sucking wind.
Because they sucked.
And the irony is that it took a 36-year-old Dwyane Wade to end Philly’s rush to the NBA elite circle and also its 17-game winning streak.
Wade scored 28 points and to lead the Miami Heat to a 113-103 Game 2 win over the Sixers and even the first-round playoff series.
“It’s just in my DNA,” Wade said. “I love the stage.”
The 36-year-old flashed the form of a three-time NBA champion with the Heat, not the journeyman who bounced around the last two seasons with forgettable stints in Chicago and Cleveland.
Wade made 11 of 17 shots and put on a show in the second quarter and put it away in the fourth.
“I saw moments,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s what defines Dwyane Wade.”
The 76ers could soon get their defining Process moment from Joel Embiid.
The Sixers sorely needed Embiid, their All-Star center out with a broken orbital bone, to settle them as they fell in a quick a 16-point hole.
The Sixers lost for the first time since March 13 to Indiana. They won 16 straight to end the regular season and the first game of the playoffs and played their 10th straight game without Embiid.
“You need Joel Embiid,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
Embiid went on Instagram after the game and wrote, “sick and tired of being babied.”
Pack the black mask for Miami.
“Joel is a superstar. Of course we’re missing him offensively, defensively,” Sixers forward Dario Saric said. “He’s a guy who wants to play all the time. I can’t wait for Joel to come back and help us because we’re a better team with him.”
Even without Embiid, the Sixers trimmed the lead to two points late in the fourth.
Philly fans were going wild and suddenly the home-court edge that had made the Sixers unbeatable for a month seemed like it would perk the team back up for one more notch on the winning streak.
Not so fast.
Ersan Ilyasova made a tip shot to close to 98-96 but Wade answered and stripped Saric and finished on the other end with a basket that steadied the Heat.
The series shifts to Miami for Game 3 on Thursday.
Wade’s play resembled his glory days at times and he carried the Heat in a sensational second quarter that was the difference. He pump-faked his way to 15 points in the quarter — impressive enough, even moreso that he outscored the potent Sixers by two points.
Wade made his first seven shots of the game and passed Larry Bird for 10th on the NBA’s career postseason scoring list.
“I play the game for these moments,” Wade said.
After a Game 1 victory where they couldn’t miss, the Sixers couldn’t make a big bucket in the first half. The Sixers made a team playoff-record 18 3s in Game 1 and missed a whopping 16 of 18 3s in the first half.
The Heat slowed the game down — exactly the kind of style where the Sixers needed Embiid in the middle — and used a collective of defenders on Ben Simmons that rattled the rookie point guard early.
The passing-and-pushing offense that got the Sixers to the No. 3 seed in the East failed them for the first time since early March.
But there was life left in the fourth.
Saric was fouled by Wade and sank both from the line to make it 91-82 and he followed with a 3 the next time down that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Saric broke up a pass on defense that led to a Simmons dunk and suddenly 18 straight wins was within reach.
Wade contributed with baskets, assists and free throws over the final 4 minutes to close out the win.
“We played Game 1 like a regular-season game and tonight was a playoff game,” Wade said.
Simmons, who had a triple-double in the opener, led the Sixers with 24 points and Saric had 23.
“I hate this feeling but maybe it’s a good reminder for everybody for next game to lock in,” Simmons said.