With the same energy they displayed in dispatching the Lakers on Tuesday, the Sixers would've cruised to a win in Phoenix last night. But that energy was nowhere to be found. In its place, a team who coasted through long stretches of the game with this false sense of security. This unfounded belief they would be able to turn it on late to pull out a win. They couldn't.
Lazy rotations. Lazy offensive possessions. Reaching instead of moving your feet. Settling for jumpers instead of pressing an advantage. The Sixers displayed all the typical symptoms of the second night of a back-to-back, especially a back-to-back in the midst of this monster road trip. It's understandable, but not acceptable. Maybe if they came into the game 20-12 instead of 15-17 you could excuse it, but the Sixers gave up the luxury to take games off when they got off to this sputtering start.
This roster goes eight deep, and I use the word deep very loosely. On any given night, Nick Young, Dorell Wright and/or Jason Richardson just completely disappear. Collins gets absolutely nothing from Kwame Brown. Royal Ivey's "extended minutes" equaled 4 last night. The night after Jrue played 39 and Turner played 41, Collins could only get 4 from Ivey to lighten the load on them. Maybe last year the bench could've come into a game like last night's a picked up a flat starting five. That's just not going to happen this year. Nick Young can get hot, Spencer Hawes can start hitting 20-footers, Dorell Wright can get hot from deep, but those guys aren't a unit. Those guys can't come in and really create on their own. It's more like one or two of them can come in and feed off the starters to keep things rolling. Last season, Lou and Thad could come off the bench and carry the team.
The point here is that the starters, and especially Jrue, need to realize there's no help coming. They can't afford to come out flat against lesser teams. They can't afford to dig holes. They can't coast and think they'll be able to turn it on late to pull out a win. If the starters don't set the tone, the game is pretty much a lost cause. Jrue put up a triple-double last night, he had a few flashes of brilliance, but he can't look himself in the mirror this morning and say he left it all on the floor last night. He took a back seat for most of the first half, whether it was part of Collins' plan or Jrue conserving energy, they aren't good enough for him to be able to do that. They definitely aren't good enough to turn winnable road games into losses.
Beating Memphis and the Lakers on the road is great. It's also the type of thing we've seen from this team for the past six or seven years. What turns a mediocre team into a good team is being able to pull it together for a big road win over a tough team, then realizing it's meaningless if you turn around and lose to the Suns the next night.
It's probably a little unfair to lay this at Jrue's feet when he had a triple-double and didn't score that poorly (16 pts on 16 shots and 4 FTA), but this is his team. There were entire possessions where he didn't touch the ball. He basically stood in the corner. Too often, he gave the ball up early to Turner and took a back seat. Too often he pulled up for a sixteen-footer when he could've gone all the way to the rim. Too often he couldn't fight through a screen, or was slow bouncing under it, or caught flat-footed in transition defense, yielding the lane. Jrue has been marvelous in his new role this year. He's the only reason this team is anywhere near .500 right now. If he's going to take the mantle of leadership. If this is going to be his team, then he's the one who has to be held accountable when the team lays an egg. That's what legit All Stars do.