PHILADELPHIA – After a season crammed with back-to-back-to-backs and no more time to rest or recover than there was to practice, the pace of the first round of playoffs has been downright leisurely.
Healing, too. Coaches who grew accustomed to scratching injured players for one, two or three nights in a row have re-discovered the recuperative powers of a few extra hours between games.
Philadelphia forward Andre Iguodala is a great example. After the Sixers’ victory in Game 2 Tuesday in Chicago, Iguodala was bothered by a flare-up of left Achilles tendinitis. If the teams had played again 24 hours later, or even Thursday, the team’s All-Star rep might have been a no-go. But Game 3 was set for Friday night (8:30 ET, ESPN2) at the Wells Fargo Center, and Iguodala pronounced himself ready and available.
“Two days helped me out a lot,” Iguodala said at shootaround Friday morning. “It may not seem like a lot of time but I got a lot of treatment yesterday and feel like I’ve got a whole new leg today. So it wasn’t as bad. I got a chance to shoot today and move a little more, and get my legs underneath me.”
The turnaround time between Games 3 and 4, however, will be about half what it was prior to this one; the Bulls and Sixers play again Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Thirty-six hours won’t allow for the same recovery, either from injuries or fatigue, that 72 hours does.
“That’s where your preparation on Saturday has to be crisp,” coach Doug Collins told reporters this week. “And we might have to use an extra guy on Sunday. Jodie [Meeks] might have to come out and give us some minutes. Tony Battie might have to give us minutes, because you’re on a quicker turnaround.”
Having Iguodala on the floor is crucial to the Sixers’ defense. His primary assignment — when he isn’t otherwise quarterbacking the team stuff for their youngish squad — is fellow East All-Star Luol Deng. The two have been going at it since they entered the league as rookies. Both rely on help from big men when they’re squeezed in pick-and-rolls, but a lot of times it comes down to which one gets the other.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Iguodala said. “Going into every game, I get pretty ticked when [Deng] scores and I’m sure it’s the same way when I score.”
Deng will be hoping to carry more of the Bulls’ offensive load, with Derrick Rose out for the postseason. That adds to Iguodala’s responsibility.
“He knows the importance of this game and how critical he is to our team,” Collins said. “His defense on [Deng] is vital to us having a chance to win this series.”