When this weekend rolled around, I planned to simply use Friday night's game as a guide for this preview. Improve upon this, cut that out, etc. Well, I'm not really sure how you improve upon a 31-point win. The main changes I'd like to see are a consistent effort throughout (no lull in the fourth), and a much better game from Jrue.
Instead of drawing comparisons to last night's game, let's spend some time speaking on a more ethereal level. The thing that makes this team perhaps more than a sum of its parts is tough to put your finger on. You know it when you see it. You know it when it seems like the Sixers have ten players on the floor, when nothing the other team does even seems to slow them down. You know it when, at the end of a game, you don't even remember the game in terms of players on the other team. They're irrelevant. They're reduced to x's on a chalk board, because whatever they tried to do, didn't work. Whatever advantage they tried to press was taken away from them. The Sixers have been this good this season because they've pulled together, they've played their game regardless of opponent, location or situation, and they haven't taken anything for granted. It's been those 8 or 9 guys playing in an empty gym, playing against chairs, each one performing his role, and when one doesn't perform his role, the others pick up the slack. It's a beautiful thing when it's working, which it has for most of the season, but it's tenuous. There's one sure way to make it disappear, complacency.
If the Sixers come into this game with last night's headlines and highlights filling their heads, they're going to be in for a rude awakening. If they think this game is going to be easy, if they think all they need to do is show up, they're going to be in trouble. Beating a bad team is easy. Beating a bad team on back-to-back nights is harder. Beating any team on back-to-back nights is never something you can do simply by showing up. The Sixers need to punch the clock and go right back to work when 7pm rolls around. They need to realize they're only great when they play their game. They're only elite, as Flip Saunders said, when they pay attention to every detail. When they're on the floor for every loose ball, a step faster than their opponent every time the ball swings from strong side to weak side. When you start believing the hype, when you start thinking all you need to do is show up, suddenly the little things start to seem less important. When that starts to happen, the glue that holds this team together, the seemingly suffocating nature of their attack, unravels and then, well, then we're left with a bunch of somewhat talented individuals instead of what can look like an extraordinary team. Even the Washington Wizards can beat a bunch of somewhat talented individuals, after all, that's what they are.
Prediction: PHI 103, WAS 74
The tip is at 7pm. This is your game thread. I'll be right here throughout. Join me if you're ready for this team to prove to you they've got their sites set much higher than just a quick start.