Is it possible for a team that's 14 games under .500 to have a trap game? I think so, and the Sixers game tonight in Indiana would definitely fit the bill. It has all the elements of a trap game: The Sixers are streaking, the Pacers are slumping; Second night of a back-to-back; The Pacers are missing their best player (Jermaine O'Neal); Philly is coming off its first sell out of the season, people are talking playoffs; Indiana fans are grasping at straws while their team loses its grip on a playoff berth. Yep, it's definitely a trap game.
How to avoid a trap game in three easy steps:
1. Come out fast. You have no idea how much it pains me to say this, but Willie Green needs to have a good game. He's going to start, he's going to shoot. The Sixers need him to hit his shots in the first quarter. I expect them to start sluggish, Green can put points on the board early, giving the rest of the team a chance to wake up.
2. Defend, defend, defend. There's a baseball axiom that Whitey Herzog used to live by, "Speed never takes a day off." Well, for the Sixers defense can't take a day off. They have to fight through tired legs and continue to play tough, smart D. With O'Neal out, the Pacers become a jump-shooting team, they need to close out on the shooters.
3. Show no mercy. Another baseball phrase, "I'll rest in November." Mo Cheeks used a tight rotation last night, the 3rd man off the bench didn't get into the game until late in the third quarter, and he only played a couple of minutes. If it takes a trimmed-down rotation so be it. Don't dip deep into the bench, keep your foot firmly on the neck of the Pacers tonight, the Sixers are young, they can handle it. Don't let up until the game is absolutely decided.
Vegas likes the Pacers (-4), but Blue Horse Shoe Loves the Sixers. A sloppy game comes down to the best player on the court, Andre Iguodala, down the stretch. Sixers by a handful, neither team breaks 100.