The Sixers deficiencies in the front court typically manifest themselves in less-than obvious ways. Poor play on the pick-and-roll, late or absent help when a driver penetrates, offensive rebounds. I'd say about 75% of the teams in the league don't have the type of big who's going to consistently make you pay for having no one to guard him on the blocks. Unfortunately, Milwaukee does not fall in that 25%.
If Andrew Bogut is healthy, and he says he's fine after taking a fall on Wednesday night, he's the type of guy who will absolutely abuse Spencer Hawes, Marreese Speights and Tony Battie as well. Doug Collins is probably going to have to put Brand on him for most of the night, but Brand probably won't be up to the task either.
Luckily, the Bucks are more focused on defense with the remainder of their starting five. Salmons can go on a hot streak, as can Jennings, but both have been pretty bad from the field so far this year. Even Corey Maggette, who was brought in to provide scoring punch, is only shooting 42% from the floor. Drew Gooden has been horrible and Mbah a Moute is a disaster on the offensive end. If the Sixers are smart, they'll swarm Bogut and make him pass out of the post every time he touches the ball. Make someone beat you from the outside.
The matchup to watch, if you want to actually see a competitive matchup and not a gross mismatch, is Jrue vs. Brandon Jennings. Two of the bright young PGs in the league, going after each other. The two only faced each other one time last season (Jrue was glued to the bench in their first meeting), with Jennings winning the battle soundly.
Things have changed since then and I'm really excited to see these guys go head to head.
If this game is going to be won, it's going to have to happen on the perimeter. I expect Bogut to take Brand, and probably give him a ton of problems. Hawes won't be able to do anything with a Gooden mismatch. Nocioni and Mbah a Moute will cancel each other out in that Mbah a Moute will shut down Nocioni and won't contribute anything on the offensive end. So can Jrue + Turner + Lou produce enough to outpace Jennings + Salmons + Maggette and make up for the gap in the bigs? I'm skeptical.
Prediction: Milwaukee 87, Philadelphia 81
The tip is at 7 p.m. Game thread will be up at 5:30.