The 76ers weren't off break last night, that's obvious. But maybe tonight against the Denver Nuggets they will have worked themselves back into game shape, ready to play after that six-day layoff.
After talking to a few of the Sixers before last night's game against the Pacers, they admitted that the first game after the break was a difficult one: because you had a tendency to be lax. Sitting courtside for last night's game, it was clear not many of the Sixers were in the gym over the break. I know some of them were. But some of them weren't. Honestly, if the trade-off for getting rest is losing one game, that seems fine. If the Sixers are going to have legs down the stretch, and in exchange they have one game where they shoot awful from the field, from three, and from the free throw line, then that seems like a worthwhile exchange.
In an 82-game season, if you don't take that opportunity to rest, you'll be done come end of March, beginning of April.
So, as poor as last night's game was, I don't think it should be an indication of a trend. Now, if they look like that -- really bad halfcourt offense, struggling on the break, general stagnation -- tonight, then I'll begin worrying.
But let's look at Andre Miller. He doesn't seem like one of those guys who can take long stretches off and perform at that same level. His game is so predicated on rhythm, fundamentals, timing, pump fakes, etc. Usually, at the beginning of seasons, he has to work himself into game shape. By the same token, it would seem after a significant break like this weekend, it would take Miller a game to get back into rhythm. His numbers would indicate that: 2 for 10 for six points. That's not at all like how he was playing. I would be surprised if Miller's numbers weren't in the 15-18 point range tonight. He should look for his shot/drive early in the game. It seemed like last night against the Pacers was a struggle for the Sixers because Miller was struggling.
As for Speights, I've heard people say he sprained his ankle in practice and that limited his minutes. That's not true. Speights' minutes were limited because of the opponent. DiLeo has a tendency to play Speights less minutes against quick active perimeter players. Indiana was one such team.
Tonight's game against the Nuggets is a challenging one -- for reasons outlined in an earlier blog. Last time the Sixers played Denver, the Nuggets were without Anthony. And still Denver won (although the Sixers were ahead by 17 in the third quarter).
X-Factor: I still think J.R. Smith is the key to this game. If he has fewer than eight points, the Sixers will win. If he has more than 14, the Sixers lose. If he has between eight and 14, then he isn't the X-Factor, and I'm no longer accountable.