Usually, when the Sixers play a team coached by Jim O'Brien I have to mentally prepare myself for a barrage of threes and a lopsided loss. Usually, his teams shoot way too may deep balls and usually an inordinate number of them find the bottom of the net against Philly. This year, however, O'Brien's team appears to be looking elsewhere for the bulk of its scoring.
When the Sixers and the Pacers take the floor tonight, O'Brien's starting five will have a slightly different feel. He's got two guys who are excellent shooters from distance, on their careers, Troy Murphy and Danny Granger. But his point guard and shooting guard are not. TJ Ford has never topped 33% and Marquis Daniels is a career 24% shooter from three. Ford is firing at an impressive 40% so far this year, so maybe he's made a step in the right direction. Daniels, on the other hand, is shooting a horrid 16% and taking 3.6 of them, per game. O'Brien doesn't have much in the way of outside shooters coming off the bench either.
When Mike Dunleavy comes back, things will change a little, but for now, O'Brien has changed his style somewhat. Indiana's 3PA are off by over 4 per game and they're shooting 3% worse as a team. How does a Jim O'Brien team with only two legit threats from downtown come into this game at an impressive 4-3? The answer is probably the play of TJ Ford.
Ford's talent was never questioned in Toronto, he just fell into a classic Wally Pipp situation. Jose Calderon is one of the best points in the league, probably the best in the Eastern Conference at this point. When Ford went down with a neck injury last year, Calderon stepped into the void and clearly surpassed him. He was expendable and traded. So far this year, he's putting up 17 ppg, 5 boards and 6.4 assists/game, with an impressive 3/1 A/TO ratio.
After the jump we'll take a quick look at the keys to the game for the Sixers.
The Sixers have a clear advantage down low in this one. Troy Murphy has no prayer of guarding EB down low, and he doesn't have the foot speed to keep up with him off the dribble. Foster is a tenacious rebounder, but you have to give the edge to Sammy. I expect Brand to carry the scoring load again.
Iguodala can give Daniels a nice cushion on the outside, basically dare him to jack up those ill-advised threes. Thad on Granger is going to be fun to watch. Granger is a talented scorer, and becoming more of a complete player right before our eyes. Thad is one of the best wing defenders I've seen in a long time. Miller can muscle Ford in the post, if the Sixers want to go to that.
Two keys defensively.
- Stay at home. No one warrants a double team, there's no reason to double and leave a shooter open for a three.
- EB on Murphy. Anytime you face a team who has a power forward that can shoot the three, you have to worry. Brand is going to be sucked away from the hoop to cover Murphy (who's shooting 48% from downtown so far). He can't lose track of Murphy.
Some people think Wednesday night's win was a fluke, and you can't really blame them. The Sixers need to keep the positive momentum going tonight. Pressure the ball, get stops, steals and blocks, run the floor and then work the ball down low to Brand. Keep the focus simple and turn that fluke into the beginning of a winning streak.
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