Against weaker opponents, they coast a little. Against the better, more talented teams, they come ready to play.
It's a dangerous habit, but it happens at every level.
Before being traded to MIA, Jermaine O'Neal, for example, said he was concerned that his Toronto teammates would take their "foot off the peddle against weakened opponents. The penchant to take teams lightly, especially teams without star players... [irked] O'Neal."
"The natural thought process is that the team isn't going to be as good," he said. "That's what I talked about the other day. This league is really 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical. Teams that are really good in this league are very, very tough mentally, they know what they're going to do on a nightly basis, they know what their job is and it doesn't matter who's on the court, they go out and do their jobs and pile up the wins. The team that (don't) are the teams that struggle. You have to will yourself to wins in this league.
You can keep fooling yourself, saying, 'we can get it tomorrow, we can it tomorrow.' Then it's going to be tomorrow and tomorrow and the next thing you know, it's 82 games later and all of a sudden it's the summer time and you're out of the playoffs."