OK, let's turn the page on last night's horrible performance in Atlanta. The Sixers were overdue for a clunker, and last night certainly qualifies. Tonight's game, and the next four games really, will decide what this team is, playoff contender or middling lottery team.
The Chicago Bulls, like the Sixers, are playing the second night of a back-to-back. Unlike the Sixers, the Bulls didn't get a chance to rest their regulars last night (Gordon, Heinrich, Deng, Wallace all played 40 minutes). The Bulls are riding a three-game winning streak. The Bulls are fighting for playoff position. The Bulls have a lot riding on this game. The Sixers, maybe not so much. Yesterday, I reviewed the Sixers' remaining schedule, and what they would probably need to do to make the playoffs, game by game. Last night's loss threw a cog into the calculations. It's a game they needed to win, and now they're going to have to pick up a win somewhere else on the schedule. Tonight would be a good time for it.
Can they win this game? Vegas doesn't know, the line is currently a pick 'em. So far this year, the Sixers are 1-1 against Chicago, each team winning on its home floor. Allen Iverson was present for both of these games, the second game in Chicago was his last as a Sixer. No defense was played in either game, but the Sixers are a different team now. If they want to come away with a win, they're going to have to play like it, especially on defense, and I don't think they can do that with Willie Green in the starting lineup.
If Green starts, he'll be on Gordon, Iguodala will cover Deng, Miller - Heinrich, Hunter - P.J. Brown, Dalembert - Wallace. All decent match ups for the Sixers except for Green on Gordon. He can't stick with Gordon, and it's going to be a problem. Last night was Rodney Carney's first game back from a torn rotator cuff, and he looked energized in his late-game minutes. He needs to be in the starting lineup tonight. His quickness, length and defensive aggressiveness will help control Gordon, and the Sixers will have a chance to keep the game close in the first quarter. A rarity since Willie Green has been inserted into the starting lineup. With their backs already against the wall, staring a double-digit deficit in the face early in the game tonight could be the straw that breaks the camel's back for the Sixers.
I'm not making a prediction on this one, and to be honest, I'm not optimistic. If Green starts, it could be a long night. Check back later tonight for a recap. God, I hope Mo Cheeks is reading this. (And yes, I know how pitiful it is that Rodney Carney could be the key to this game.)