When I wrote Sixers previews in the regular season, I'd go through the same routine. I'd look at some team stats, some player stats, some injuries and recent trends, culminated with an e-mail exchange with LeQuan Glover to remind me how bad Andre Iguodala is. Previewing game three of the Sixers first round Playoff series with the Bulls is a little different.
You can basically throw every stat and trend out the window, because this is the Playoffs and things drastically change by the game – by the half, even. The series is currently tied at one and the general consensus – along with Doug Collins' starting lineup – has evolved more than Clefairy, after given a Moon Stone.
Game One: "The Sixers suck and are going to get swept."
Game Two, First Half: "Derrick Rose is hurt, which sucks, but the Sixers still suck, so the Bulls will only suck after they beat the Sixers."
Game Two, Second Half: "Told you the Sixers suck. Look, they're losing to the Bulls without Derrick Rose."
Game Three: "Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner are superstars. Can the Sixers beat the Celtics in the second round?"
We've only played two games, but Doug Collins has already used three different starting lineups, and people's outlook on the series has changed four times. In the past few days I've seen numerous fans and analysts writing off the Bulls after their game two loss, but what seems to be forgotten is: The Bulls were up 11 points at halftime.
In all honesty, I have no idea what to expect for game three. Will the Sixers play like they did in the first half of the season, or the second half? Will they play like they did in the first half of game two, or the second half? Will Jrue and Evan have huge letdowns after their semi-breakout performances in game two, or will they regress to their inconsistent selves? Will the Rose-less Bulls show up like they showed up to beat the Heat on TNT earlier this season, or will they play like the deflated bunch who were smothered by the Sixers in the second half?
I just don't know.
Here's what I do know: I'm more excited for a Sixers game than I've been in a long time. All we've been asking for all season – besides re-building, of course – is the development of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. From that standpoint, this year has been an epic failure and huge disappointment, but a big-time Playoff performance from both the The Villain and The Jruth could erase a miserable season in a lot of ways, especially if this continues beyond the Bulls. As I tweeted yesterday, both Jrue and Evan have higher career Playoff PERs (Player Efficiency Rating) than during the regular season, and they've done so against some damned-good defenses, in the Heat and Bulls. It's an extremely small sample size, but a reminder as to why Sixers fans were so excited about this backcourt's future following last year's Playoff exit.
Let's just not get too excited this time, because the reality is, they've played one good game together. There's still a lot of basketball to be played – although I'm partially convinced the world will end after Adam Aron descends from the raters at the Wells Fargo Center tonight to announce the starting lineups. "IT'LL BE UNLIKE ANYTHING ANYONE HAS EVER SEEN!" says the Sixers CEO.
Come for the player intros, stay for the free Big Macs; tonight should be a good one. I'll leave you with a quote from the one and only LeQuan Glover, who e-mailed his off-season plan to Michael Levin this morning.
I have a thing for Brook Lopez ...