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Against All Odds, Again

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For the second time on this five-game road trip, the Sixers will enter a hostile arena as a prohibitive underdog. Eight points, to be exact. ESPN's evil computer says there's an 80% chance the Blazers will win tonight, a 48% chance they'll win by 10 or more points. After the jump we'll try to figure out if the Sixers can turn the tables again like they did they last time they faced these type of odds.
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The stats paint a bleak picture, mainly because the Blazers biggest strength lies in an area of weakness for the Sixers. The Blazers absolutely own the offensive glass. Honestly, I think any offensive rebounding advantage the Blazers hold tonight will be more of a sympton than a problem.

I'm about 99% sure Tony DiLeo will start the following lineup to counter Portland's lineup (heights in parens):

  • Andre Miller (6'2") vs. Steve Blake (6'3")
  • Willie Green (6'3") vs. Brandon Roy (6'6")
  • Andre Iguodala (6'6") vs. Travis Outlaw (6'9")
  • Thad Young (6'8") vs. LaMarcus Aldridge (6'11")
  • Samuel Dalembert (6'11") vs. Joel Przybilla (7'1")
A height disadvantage at every single position, and a gross mismatch at PF. Aldridge averages 2.9 offensive rebounds/36 minutes against full-sized PFs, what's he going to do against Thad?

If any matchup called for a shift in the starting lineup, this is it. I mean, take a look:

  • Andre Miller (6'2") vs. Steve Blake (6'3")
  • Andre Iguodala (6'6") vs. Brandon Roy (6'6")
  • Thad Young (6'8") vs. Travis Outlaw (6'9")
  • Marreese Speights (6'11") vs. LaMarcus Aldridge (6'11")
  • Samuel Dalembert (6'11") vs. Joel Przybilla (7'1")
Seems a little more even, correct? As a matter of fact, I think this lineup, which both DiLeo and Ed Stefanski said they wanted to use weeks ago, and have consistently failed to , just makes too much sense to ignore. If you start your standard lineup, you're going to have two gross size mismatches on the floor at all times, and the Blazers are smart enough to exploit them. I'm not sure if an advantage exists at all on the offensive side.

But enough of that, we're banging our heads against the wall by calling for this lineup, and Speights may get torched worse than Thad by Aldridge any way. Let's deal in reality. The Sixers have a couple of advantages, statistically. They force more turnovers, they go to the line more and they keep their opponents off the line. If Philly is going to have any chance, they need to put a couple of early fouls on Przybilla and force Greg Oden into the game. Since returning from the latest in a long line of injuries, the Blazers have been using Oden for less than 10 minutes/game. In fact, from looking at the box scores, the Blazers have severely trimmed their rotation. Basically, they run 7 guys and 10 minutes of Oden, that's it.

Their backup point gaurd position is woefully lacking, with Sergio Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless taking turns running the team into the ground. The other two rookies Portland has relied on, Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum, are suffering the effects of injuries. Batum is listed as questionable (forcing Outlaw into the starting lineup) and Rudy has shot 26% from the floor since taking a shot to the head from Ariza against the Lakers.

The Blazers aren't a tough puzzle to solve. Roy and Aldridge do the lion's share of the scoring. Przybilla cleans the glass, Blake and Outlaw hang out at the three-point line and drain open threes. If the Sixers over-help, like they love to do, they'll be banking on a 39% shooter (Blake), a 43.8% shooter (Outlaw) and  a 37.9% shooter (Fernandez) are going to have off nights. I'm not willing to make that bet. If you get beat off the dribble, Sammy is the last line of defense, let him be that guy. The challenge, if the guys on the perimeter can't keep their man in front of them, is going to be finding a way to get a body on Przybilla if Sammy leaves him for blocks. That's why I don't have much confidence we'll see the Sixers playing sound defense tonight. If it's not one thing that kills them, it's another.

If I had more time I might talk more about risky strategies the team could utilize tonight, but ultimately I think it's going to be simple. If the Sixers are hitting their shots, they have a prayer (Portland isn't that good on defense). If they aren't, they won't have the firepower to keep up with Portland.

There is an asterisk to go along with this game, though. If Andre Iguodala out-plays Brandon Roy, I believe the Sixers will win this game. Don't forget what happened when they met in Philly back in February, nothing is impossible.

The tip is at 10pm, the game is on NBA TV. I'll be watching, as usual, join me in the comments if you're around.

When they left Philly, we all knew 2-3 was the probable outcome of this trip. A loss tonight, and that's right where they'll be. A win, and they've over-achieved in the most improbable way.
by Brian on Mar 23 2009
Tags: Basketball | Blazers | Pregame | Sixers |