Back when the Sixers initially acquired Jalen McDaniels my Sixers Beat podcast co-host, Rich Hofmann, expertly summarized the transition that McDaniels would have to make as he moves from Charlotte to Philadelphia.
"Can you go from playing nonsense ball, to a team that plays nonsense ball half the time?" Rich said, in a comment that was more about the Sixers than McDaniels. "[The Sixers] play nonsense ball, but they better have more points than the other team at the end of the game."
In last night's 101-99 loss, the Sixers gave up eight offensive rebounds to Miami in the first quarter alone, allowing the Heat to grab exactly half of their missed shots to start the game. The Sixers then compounded that with infuriating turnovers, careless decisions that looked like they were there physically, but not all that present mentally. The end result was that by the time intermission came around the Heat had 18 more looks at the rim than the Sixers did, an almost unimaginable feat.
If nonsense basketball was in the dictionary, it would have a screenshot of the Sixers' first half box score from last night to drive home the definition.
As a basketball fan, the Sixers coming out flat like they did should be incredibly disappointing, although not entirely unexpected.
First of all, it was a chance to wash away the stink of the second-half collapse against the Boston Celtics. Instead, they added fuel to the skepticism fire. On top of that, last night's game came against the team that ended their season last spring, which should have added extra motivation for the Sixers. It didn't. Finally, it was the last home game before a brutally difficult five-game road trip, a crucial, and realistic, chance to pick up a win before circumstances will make it difficult to do so. Instead, they let one slip away.
There will be a lot of focus on the Sixers' execution down the stretch, and of the numerous missed opportunities they had to steal a game. But they didn't deserve to steal that game, and considering the circumstances that level of f'ing around was maddening.
Perhaps this stretch of schedule can be a good opportunity to prepare the Sixers for the playoffs, not only because it will be tough, but because it can provide some consequences for the bad habits that they've been getting away with for most of the season. Without consequences, it's easy to overlook the lapses in effort, the lack of commitment to transition defense, the inconsistent focus or the periods of inadequate ball movement. But for the first time in quite a while those lapses have come back to bite them with a loss in the standings, and it's done so two games in a row.
The optimistic view is maybe those losses can get them dialed, for 48 minutes, in all facets of the game, before the games truly start to matter.