The Sioux Falls Skyforce approach the All-Star break with 22 wins and just seven losses. It leads the Austin Spurs by 2.5 games for the best record in the D-League.
But the All-Star break can't come soon enough for Sioux Falls.
The team that couldn't lose has done nothing but over the past three games. Long on pace to set the single-season D-League wins record, after Friday nights 95-91 loss in Westchester, the Skyforce has now lost three straight games for the first time this season.
The Skyforce has been without key starters Greg Whittington and DeAndre Liggins for awhile. Whittington has missed almost two months, and Liggins almost one month. But while head coach Dan Craig's squad has found a way to manage thus far, he admitted to a degree of fatigue setting in.
"When you have a bunch of guys out, and your bench is eight for a couple games, you can rally," he told ESPN99.1 after the team's 103-97 loss to Canton this past Wednesday night. "But when your bench is eight for awhile, then you start to feel a little fatigued. I see it in our minds."
The Skyforce's Achillies' heel of late has been its sluggish start to games. The team trailed Westchester by as many as 19 in the first half on Friday. Sioux Falls adjusted at halftime, allowing only 34 points in the second half, but it had already dug itself too big of a hole.
Sioux Falls trailed Canton by nine in the first quarter on Wednesday, and after rallying to take a brief lead, subsequently allowed a 24-5 Charge run to trail by 13 at the half.
"We just can't come out with the slow starts," rookie forward Jabril Trawick told ESPN99.1 after the Canton game. "We've had a lot of miraculous comebacks this season and that's not going to happen that often."
The issues seem to run deeper than merely bench depth. On Wednesday the offense had very little flow. The team only attempted eight threes, despite averaging more than 21 threes per game and being in the top-ten in the league in three-point percentage. They moved the ball well at times but passed up many wide-open looks, which is uncharacteristic of Sioux Falls. Instead, they relied on ineffective post-ups and isolation drives.
Furthermore, Sioux Falls got starting guard Rodney McGruder back after a shoulder injury caused him to miss two games, in addition to having All-Star forward Jarnell re-assigned to the 'Force by the Miami Heat, boosting depth.
It'd be ridiculous to say the Skyforce is in trouble. It is still the D-League's best team, even having lost three of its four matchups with the Knicks. But it is apparent that the team is missing Whittington and Liggins. Sioux Falls will take the break to rest up mentally and physically before kicking off the second half of the season in Grand Rapids on Feb. 17.