Saturday, February 4, 2012

And Then The Roof Caved In

Through the better part of three quarters tonight in Philadelphia, the Sixers were actually doing what their record, if not their recent head to head results, said they could do: hang with the Miami Heat. To my eye, they actually looked like a better team, in that their ball movement was better, their ability to handle the ball was sound, and they held the lead nearly as much as the Heat did. If the Heat didn't have Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole hitting from beyond the arc at historically unsustainable levels (they combined to go 6 for 8, when they are much more likely to go 2 for 8... and every time the Heat started to pull away, my laundry snapped right back into it. Jodie Meeks, who looked lost and overmatched last year in the playoffs, was stepping up into his threes and looking confident, and when Meeks is good, this team can be very, very good. I was enjoying the game a lot.

You know, kind of like the first three quarters of four out of five playoff games last year.

Which the Heat won 4-1, basically by turning on the jets when they needed it.

And then the third quarter started, and Elton Brand started to let his lack of success (0 for 3 in 23 minutes, no trips to the line) start to get in his head. The bench mob, with Lou Williams being the prime culprit, started to miss shots. Turnovers, which are the Sixers' bread and butter (they make you commit them, and don't do it themselves) stayed out of the game, for the most part; Miami had 8, and Philly had 6. But the biggest problem was that LeBron James started to heat up. Aided by some eyebrow-raising no calls, the freight train got moving, and after starting off ice cold, he wound up 8 for 16, with a near triple double... and as usually happens with this team, good things begot good things.

And a sudden and shocking and sad end of drama, and a tendency to just throw away everything that's happened to date, all because they don't match up with what might be the best team in basketball. But it's more than that, really; it's the way these games go down, where Miami just seemingly decides to take it to another level and leaves the Sixers looking like a JV team. And I get that this happens a lot to the Heat's opponents, but they aren't *that* much more athletic than the Sixers, particularly on the bench.

But the plain and simple truth of the matter is that the Sixers don't seem to believe they can hang with this team at Warp 10. And they probably can't.

But at this point, it might as much mental as physical. And that's far more damaging than a single loss in February.


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