If you read the preview of tonight’s Pacers/Sixers game in Philly on ESPN.com, you’d think the Pacers are an elite team, marching into the playoffs. The preview was written by “Stats LLC,” and apparently Mr. LLC hasn’t seen the Sixers play recently.
Granted, the Pacers are coming off a super-impressive two-game winning streak (over the Celts and Bobcats), have upped their record to 6–18 since the All Star Break, and are riding the back of their superstar, Mike Dunleavy. The Pacers’ stifling defense held a Celtics team with a starting lineup of Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Kendrick Perkins, Allen Ray and Rajon Rondo to a lowly 98 points, in Indy. OK, maybe the Pacers are on a roll.
Seriously though, the Sixers have shown a ton of resolve in the second half of the season, and I think they’re going to come away with a win tonight. Their rotation is going to be ultra-thin, Korver’s expected to miss his second consecutive game with a wrist injury and Rodney Carney’s strained knee will keep him out. Lou Williams, Bobby Jones and hopefully Louis Amundson will see more time tonight.
The nice thing about Mo Cheeks’ recent youth movement (Carney, Williams and Jones have all seen an uptick in their minutes, in crucial stretches of the game) is that we’re getting to see who’s for real, (Williams, maybe Carney) and who probably is never going to be (Jones), without giving away games. Against Atlanta, the Sixers started the deciding fourth quarter with Williams, Jones and Carney on the floor, and they narrowed the gap before Iguodala and Miller came back in to finish the Hawks off.
One final note. This guy (pictured at right) Louis Amundson, is Renaldo Balkman minus 15–minutes per game. Given those minutes, I guarantee Amundson would average Balkman’s 4.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.86 blocks. The Balkman pick is what many Knicks fans are hanging their pro-Isiah hats on, and yes, he’s a productive hustle guy who can come off the bench and energize the team. Players like that are valuable, and they’re also not that hard to find. The Sixers found theirs on the waiver wire, the Knicks used the #20 pick in the draft to get theirs, yet somehow, people think Isiah is a better GM than Billy King. Ponderous.
By the way, the Sixers are now .5 games behind the Knicks in the race for bragging rights.