Is This Any Way To Get Ready For The Lakers?

CHICAGO--The 76ers watched the Derrick Rose highlights from Sunday's home loss to the Chicago Bulls, and they laughed and joked about the way the rookie guard used Andre Miller as an unwitting foil.

Miller said he hadn't taken it personally.

But he he had.

They all had.

Even though they didn't always play smart last night, they played hard and they played defense, regaining a measure of respect in a 103-95 overtime victory in the rematch. And Miller, the veteran who was arguably the best point guard in the NBA's Eastern Conference last season, left Rose--the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft--with more than a few things to think about.

Miller scored a season-high 28 points and lured Rose into several critical mistakes. Miller, though, didn't gloat; that's not his style. And it is good to see that it also is not Rose's style. In the aftermath of a terrific performance Sunday, Rose didn't publicly celebrate; he said he wouldn't want an opponent doing that to him, either.

''Miller is a good point guard,'' Rose acknowledged. ''He got me in foul trouble (5 in 40:37) . . . and it got to me a little bit. It got me out of my game. He definitely got to me a little bit.''

Rose had a team-high 24 points, but he never had control of this game the way he had Sunday. He had 6 of the Bulls' 24 turnovers and handed out just 2 assists.

''Andre is an elite point guard,'' Willie Green said. ''Rose is going to be.''

Vinny Del Negro, the Bulls' first-year coach, said it a different way: Andre Miller is very clever and he had a very strong game. He has been around; he knows the tricks of the trade.''

He also said: "We had 24 turnovers and they had 18 offensive rebounds. We knew how good they were on the glass. I think they played harder at times than us . . . We were lackadaisical at times. Give Philly credit; they came in here with the right mindset. They are long and athletic; they lead the league in offensive rebounding for a reason.''

The victory ended a maddening four-game losing streak, but the Sixers did themselves no favors by having to play an extra five-minute period, then catch a charter flight home and try and get enough rest to properly face the Los Angeles Lakers tonight. And if that assignment didn't already have a sufficient degree of difficulty, the Lakers are coming in after losing in Indiana on  Troy Murphy's buzzer-beating tip-in.

I know the email brigade will have all the obligatory questions about why Elton Brand touched the ball so little in the fourth quarter and overtime, why Samuel Dalembert appears to be struggling mightily, why the offense is so sporadic, with the ball not moving side to side nearly enough. But president/general manager Ed Stefanski will answer some questions before tonight's game. Stefanski is only doing that because he had so many interview requests earlier in the week.

I don't know what Stefanski will say, but I'll guess that he'll say he's remaining patient, that he has no plans to make personnel changes, that he knew--they all knew--that getting this group to come together would take some time.

I asked Cheeks whether this victory at least allowed him to exhale, but he responded the same way he has since the season started.

"We're just trying to get a consistent way of playing,'' he said.

That search remains ongoing.