When the Sixers and Wizards take the floor tonight in Washington it will represent a turning point for the teams. Not too long ago, the Wizards were sitting 6 games ahead of the Miami Heat, cruising to their first division title since 1978–79. The Sixers, on the other hand, were right in the middle of the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant sweepstakes 14 games ago. The season was spiraling out of control.
The teams that meet tonight will bear little resemblance to those teams. The Sixers have turned their season, and possibly their franchise, around. The Wizards, well, they’re coming off a 1–4 road trip, looking up at the Heat and staring a first-round series without home-court advantage in the face. (The Wizards are 25–9 at home, 10–23 on the road).
Even with the Wizards playing horrible basketball recently, this game is going to be rough for the Sixers. Gilbert Arenas (6’4”) DeShawn Stephenson (6’5”) and Antawn Jamison (6’9”) all create huge matchup problems for the Sixers. Some combination of Andre Miller (6’2), Willie Green (6’4”) and Andre Iguodala (6’6”) are going to have to match up with them for significant minutes. Miller and Green can’t hope to keep up with Arenas, and if Iguodala takes him, Jamison has a huge mismatch. The Sixers should play a lot of zone against the Wizards to minimize the size mismatches. The only problem with that is all three of those players can shoot the three at a decent clip. The good news is that the Wiz get little to no production from their 4 and 5 spots. Dalembert and Hunter should do a lot of freelancing, let the guys on the perimeter pressure the shooters and funnel them to the big men for blocks.
On offense, look for Korver to have plenty of open looks, and Iguodala to be able to take Jamison off the dribble.
The Wizards are 7–point favorites right now, and I wouldn’t touch this game with a ten-foot pole. The huge win over the Heat on Saturday was reminiscent of the 7–game streak the Sixers reeled off in February, but winning two in a row on the road against playoff teams is probably just too much to ask. The Sixers need 9 wins to have a shot at the playoffs, if they pick one up tonight their chances go from next-to-none to slim.
Check out a live blog of the game at Passion and Pride tonight, unfortunately, I won’t be able to participate, probably going to have to watch the game on TiVo when I get home from work. I’ll have my wrap up after the game, as usual.
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