The Sixers entered an extremely tough trio of games on Wednesday night against the Pacers. They entered needing to pick up one win in the three, then laid an egg against the Pacers. That throttling left them the enviable task of picking up a win either tonight, against an irate Miami Heat team, or tomorrow night against the Bulls squad that incensed the Heat on Wednesday. A tall order, indeed.
The Bulls beat Miami on Wednesday night, without Derrick Rose and with Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer combining to shoot 5/17 from the floor for 13 points. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both went off (they scored 71 super-efficient points between them) and the Bulls still won. Just from looking at the box score, the Bulls did a great job of limiting Chris Bosh, and they didn't let any of Miami's bit players scavenge points. Oh, and they also grabbed a ton of offensive boards.
It would be great if the Sixers could follow the same blueprint, but they just aren't built that way. Their defensive strength lies on the perimeter. Chris Bosh will have a mismatch all night long. The Sixers are one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the league. If they're going to win this game, it's going to have to be on the backs of Jrue, Turner and Iguodala. Wade and LeBron can score, in fact, you can't stop them from scoring, but the Sixers need to make them less efficient in doing so.
Maimi's achilles heel on the offensive end is turnovers. They're careless with the ball by nature, if the Sixers are going to win this game, they're going to need to shine a bright light on that weakness. If they lay back and try to just play Miami straight up on the defensive end, eventually the Heat are going to find their weakness and go on a monster run. Let's face facts, Philly is out-gunned. If they're going to win this game, they need to turn it into a street fight. They need to take Miami out of their comfort zone. I'm talking about pressuring the ball, I'm talking about trapping Miami way out on the floor. I'm talking about chipping down on Bosh when he gets the ball and measures Brand for a jumper or a drive. They need to do everything and anything they can to disrupt Miami's offense. Make things hard, and hope LeBron decides to play isolation ball, because while he's a great scorer, the team isn't as good when he's doing a Carmelo Anthony impersonation.
In each of their first two games, the Sixers hung with Miami through the first three quarters, only to get blown away in the fourth. Collins needs to be aware of that. He needs to do a better job of managing Jrue, Iguodala and Turner's minutes so they're fresh for the start of the fourth, because if the game is close and the Heat are facing a perimeter group consisting of Lou and Meeks with the game hanging in the balance, they're going to pounce and it's going to be too late by the time Collins gets his key guys back in there.
I hope Sam Young is available for tonight's game, because they could use the big body in their perimeter rotation.
The guys who have really killed the Sixers in their previous two meetings were Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers. I assume Turner is going to get the Wade matchup early, it's imperative that Jrue sticks with Chalmers behind the three point line when he's in there, and keeps Cole out of the lane when it's his turn. Make Chalmers make a play off the dribble, make Cole shoot contested jumpers.
I'm hoping Spencer Hawes' need to "play his way into shape" doesn't trump actual on-court production for tonight at least. Vucevic had possibly the best game of his career against the Heat (before he left the game with an ankle injury). I'd like to see a quick hook for Hawes if he looks as bad tonight as he did on Wednesday. Lou and Thad also really need to bounce back tonight.
The tip is at 7pm on ESPN. Game thread will land around 5.