A loss to the Oklahoma City Saturday night marked the end of the Sixers' difficult 8 game road trip. Other than maybe some souvenirs they picked up on the trip, the Sixers came home empty handed with a mere 2-6 record during that stretch. That puts them at 5 games under .500 now with a 15-20 record. This isn't too surprising. They are the team everyone knew they would be without Andrew Bynum. They are a team that is only watchable thanks to Nick Young or perhaps because of their enjoyable social media prowess They're ... (GASP) MEDIOCRE (... at best).
But what I found a little surprising during this road trip is how bad the Sixers are in the second of back-to-back games. It's not like I expected them to be good in this area, but I thought they'd at least be somewhere near mediocre here, since, you know, the Sixers are obviously mediocre in all aspects of basketball and life.
Exactly how bad are they? They're 2-8 in these type of games so far this season. To make matters even worse, the 2 wins came against terrible teams (Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns) in close games. It could be argued that they're not that far away from being 0-10 in these type of games.
Before looking into the reasons why the Sixers struggles in this area, let's look at the second game of B2B record of all the other NBA teams, for reference. (Sorted by B2B Record Win %)
|Team||Record||2nd Game B2B Record||%|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||26-7||5-0||1.000|
|Golden State Warriors||22-11||5-2||.714|
|Portland Trail Blazers||18-15||5-3||.625|
|Los Angeles Clippers||27-8||5-3||.625|
|San Antonio Spurs||27-9||5-4||.555|
|New York Knicks||23-10||3-3||.500|
|Los Angeles Lakers||15-18||2-3||.400|
|New Orleans Hornets||8-25||3-7||.300|
It's obvious that the best teams in the league are near the top in this category, and the worst teams are closer to the bottom. You can see that the Sixers are among the worst teams in this category.
The optimist might point out that the Sixers have played in more second of B2B's than any other team. Therefore they will have less to deal with the rest of the season and that should help improve their record. They might also say that some teams with worse records are ahead of the Sixers in this category and that progression to the mean in this category will also bump their record up. Last year, the Sixers finished 35-31. They finished 10-10 (.500) in second games of B2B. (It should be noted that last year's schedule was tighter because of the shortened season.)
Others might wonder why the Sixers struggle in this category. Lack of rest is the most obvious reason, and Michael touched on that subject on WIP with Spike Eskin the other night. In short, he said he believes Doug Collins' will to win - and the pressure on him to win - every game hurts the team in this area. Instead of admitting defeat when a loss looks likely, Collins might keep his starters out on the floor and essentially waste minutes they could spend resting on the bench. I think there's some legitimacy to this theory. Jrue Holiday (9th in MPG), Evan Turner (T-26th MPG), and Thaddeus Young (T-32nd MPG) all see a lot of burn. This happens because they happen to be among the Sixers best players, and because the team lacks solid depth. Therefore, if you're trying to win, it's hard to decrease the best players' minutes because if you do so you're sacrificing the talent it takes to win. Vicious circle!
We already know how badly the Sixers perform with 0 days rest. Let's take a closer look at the Sixers record this year when they're more rested:
It's a very small sample size, as is the data in the aforementioned chart, but it's clear that the Sixers are closer to their typical state of mediocrity when they have at least one day of rest.
So don't worry, folks. Should the Sixers progress to the mean and should Doug Collins find a way to manage minutes more effectively without sacrificing performance, the Sixers will likely fulfill the Quest for Mediocracy.
Without the return of Andrew Bynum, that's depressing news. The Sixers will probably get the 8th seed and get sent packing home in a first round playoff defeat along with a mid round draft pick as a parting gift. But apparently there's another Bynum update coming this week, so maybe it'll be positive news. Of course, I'm being very hopeful here, but the larger point is that being .500 with a Bynum return wouldn't be the worst thing. Let's see how it all plays out.