It would've been easy for the Sixers to pack it in.
During the final game before the All-Star break, without their best player and down 23 at the half, this game had loss written all over it.
Instead, the Sixers outscored the Miami Heat 65-40 in the second half of a 104-102 win at Wells Fargo Center Wednesday (see observations).
"We felt that within this room we had enough firepower, offensively," head coach Brett Brown said when asked about his halftime message, "but nothing can happen unless we have some level of sting to our defense."
After allowing the Heat to shoot 52 percent from the field in the first half, the Sixers held Miami to just 37 percent in the second. And they were able to produce that second-half "sting" without the services of All-Star big man Joel Embiid (see story).
Rookie Ben Simmons (18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) and Dario Saric (19 points, eight rebounds, three assists) were their usual stellar selves, but it was the Sixers' bench that propelled them to the win. Veteran Trevor Booker, newcomer Marco Belinelli and the recently bench-ridden Richaun Holmes were huge in the comeback effort.
"As I look at our bench and I see the contribution that Richaun made and Trevor Booker made and Marco Belinelli made," Brown said. "Kind of unlikely suspects to flip a game that we were down 24 at home and claw back and have a tremendous win, and to achieve our goal of winning the five games at home sure makes the [All-Star break] a heck of a lot more enjoyable."
Booker and Holmes provided their typical energy. Booker grabbed nine rebounds in just 15 minutes, while Holmes, though not Wednesday’s starter at center, played 28 minutes, recorded 11 points, nine boards and two blocks, and was also in the game down the stretch as the Sixers clung to their lead.
"That's what we do," Booker said. "We both bring energy. When both of us are on, it's tough. But that's what we do. We provide the energy and just try to get the team going and that's what we did tonight."
As for Belinelli, he came as advertised. The sharpshooter, who signed Monday after being bought out by the Atlanta Hawks, provided the team exactly what it needed: bench scoring (see story). The 11-year veteran scored 13 of his 17 points as the Sixers made their comeback in the second half. He shot 7 of 12 from the field overall, including 3 of 5 from three.
After the game, he felt vindicated in picking the Sixers.
"I remember yesterday saying the one thing I really love about this group," Belinelli said, "they want to win so bad and that's why I think we won this game. It's not easy. Especially down  against a really good team in Miami, I'm really impressed."
The Sixers swept their five-game homestand in impressive fashion.
But was it their best win of the season?
"It's high," Brown said. "It could be No. 1. It feels like it's the best as I speak."