Is it just me, or did the past four days seem to last forever? Well, we've had our mid-season break, now it's finally time for the Sixers to get back to work. The lead up to game 42 has been quite similar to the weeks heading into game 1. Perhaps my optimism is a bit more guarded now than it was in late October, but the commonalities are still there.
We've got a team that can beat anyone if they play their game, and play it well. We've got our budding young superstar playing at a phenomenally high level. We've got the cagey veteran point and a host of young players just waiting to bust out. We've seen this team beat the best teams in the league and tonight they'll have the missing piece on the floor with them. Elton Brand's suit will be hanging in his locker at 7p.m. when the Knicks and Sixers tip it off at the Wach. After the jump we'll talk about Brand's return and take a quick look at the stats.
We know exactly what we're going to get from the Knicks. About 30 three-point attempts, virtually no defense and a couple of intense runs fueled by hot shooting from the outside. The key to beating them is to not get caught up in the moment when they make those runs. Let them take their bad shots, but play your game. Just because they're shooting with 5 seconds off the shot clock doesn't mean you have to, especially when all it takes is about 8 seconds of patience to get a wide-open look against their porous defense.
The Knicks #1 draft pick from last summer, Danillo Gallinari, has been seeing minutes recently. In the grand Euro tradition, he's a defensive specialist. Last night against Memphis he played only 17 minutes, but managed to foul out of the game. Two guys on the Knicks can make a difference, David Lee and Al Harrington. Lee because he dominates the boards. Keep him off the offensive glass. Harrington because he's the epitome of a gunner, and Mike D'Antoni has told him to fire at will. He's averaging 6.8 three-point attempts/game since joining the Knicks, and shooting the long ball at a 38% clip. Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson are capable of scoring 30, but they're both extreme volume shooters with low percentages. No Knickerbocker warrants a double team, at any time. Stick to the shooters, keep a body on Lee and this will be a win. The goal is a double-digit win, and to hold the Knicks under 95 points.
Now, what to say about Elton Brand? I'm sure you've heard already that he'll be coming off the bench and playing 5 minute stints. They think he'll play between 15-20 minutes in the game, so I guess that equates to one stint per quarter.
The way I see it, there are two very simple goals to Brand's minutes.
- Stay healthy. Test that shoulder and whatever you do, don't re-injure it.
- Build up his wind.
The minutes he plays right now are little more than a precursor to his return to the starting lineup. That being said, there's no harm in seeing how he affects the offensive flow of the game for the Sixers. With that in mind, tonight I'm going to be paying close attention to how often the Sixers run when he's on the floor, and also how he fits into the running game. Expect a full report when the game is over.
The tip is at 7, I'll be here throughout. Join the discussion in the comments if you're around. A week ago they played the Knicks with a chance to get to .500 on the season, let's hope for the same results tonight.