By Annie Ross
When the Sixers are led in scoring by Ish Smith (above) and Carl Landry they have a narrow path to victory.
And that proved the case last night in Miami as Philly again was without bigs Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, who are out with injury.
The Heat rallied from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Sixers 103-98.
The short-handed Sixers, who have the NBA’s worst record (8-55), endured their 12th consecutive loss. Hassan Whiteside had seven blocked shots, including a pivotal one late to help the Heat win their fifth game in a row.
Dwayne Wade shot 5 for 15 but still managed 23 points, while Goran Dragic had 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Whiteside shot 4 for 11 but had 14 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.
Smith scored 21 points and Landry added 18 for the Sixers, but they were outscored 30-19 in the final 9 1/2 minutes.
”It’s kind of been the story of the year,” Smith said. ”We just have to close down these close games.”
The Heat missed 10 consecutive shots in the second half and went nearly 8 minutes without a basket as the 76ers took a 72-69 lead, and the margin reached 79-73 before Miami rallied.
A frantic sequence that began with a block by Whiteside turned the game for the Heat. Dragic came up with the rebound to start a fast break that ended with a running dunk by Wade, before he and Dragic both went sprawling happily to the floor.
”It was bodies flying around,” Dragic said. ”Great play by D-Wade. He’s still got the hops.”
The crowd erupted, and Whiteside hollered too.
”That’s kind of what I do – block shots and get the crowd going,” Whiteside said. ”D-Wade goes dunk, and I cheer for D-Wade.”
The score put the Heat up 91-87 with 3:21 left, and the Sixers trailed the rest of the way.
”The only difference between good teams and bad teams,” Landry said, ”is how to close out quarters.”
The Heat beat the Sixers for the second time in three nights for their longest regular-season winning streak since an eight-game stretch from Feb. 11 to March 3, 2014.
‘The Heat (37-26) climbed a season-high 11 games over .500 and matched last season’s win total with 19 games remaining. They improved to 8-2 since losing Chris Bosh to a blood clot in his calf.
Smith’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half put the 76ers ahead 49-47, but they fell to 5-14 when leading at halftime. Philadelphia dropped to 3-30 on the road