Two years ago, when the Sixers were battling for playoff seeding, the Nets swept the Sixers 4-0 in gut-wrenching fashion. Last year, when losses were eventually the goal, the Nets couldn't get out of their own way. The Sixers took the season series four-love. This year, the desired direction of the team is a topic for much debate, so the outcome of this game becomes a glass-half-full kind of situation. Either way, this one-game road trip is the first tune up for the Ice Capades road trip.
The Sixers thrashed the Nets in Philly to start their current 7-game stretch of exceptional play (for the most part). In that matchup, the starting lineup of Hawes, Brand, Iguodala, Turner and Holiday set the tone in the first and third quarters, outscoring the Nets 35-24 over about 15 minutes combined. Jrue led the way with 20 points, 13 assists and only 1 turnover.
New Jersey's poster boy, Brook Lopez, is turning in one of the softest seasons you'll ever see from a center. After averaging 6.6 attempts at the rim last season, he's down to 3.5 this year and his long twos have grown from 2.9 to 4.3 per game. He's averaging 35.8 minutes and 6.3 rebounds/game. That's good for a 12.5% defensive rebounding rate (or 5% worse than Andre Iguodala's). He's essentially playing like Spencer Hawes, if the Sixers gave Hawes nearly 36 minutes and 16 shots/game. The one thing Lopez still does is get to the line, so expect the Sixers to bail him out a handful of times tonight.
On the other side of the ledger is Devin Harris. Harris has been scoring efficiently, getting to the line and distributing. His main problem this season is the turnovers. Jrue needs to keep him out of the lane and off the line. Morrow is still a great shooter, and not much else. Don't lose track of him. Kris Humphries has been a pleasant surprise for Avery Johnson. his 29.7% defensive rebounding rate almost makes up for his soft front-court mate.
New Jersey is searching for an answer at SF. Travis Outlaw was the starter, but he's been demoted. Quinton Ross got the start in their last game. Pretty much no matter who they decide to play at SF, Iguodala should dominate that matchup on both ends.
Derrick Favors is up to almost 19 minutes/game on the season, and his role seems to be expanding. I'm looking forward to seeing him play and hoping his athleticism won't give the Sixers too many problems on the inside.
What I'm looking for in this game, other than a resounding win, is for Jrue Holiday to break out a little bit. Harris is questionable defensively, the Nets aren't exactly stout up front. I'd like to see Jrue use his drive early to create space for his jumper later and make a point of seeking out contact when he does get into the lane. The free throw attempts have been falling recently and I think it's because he's shying away from contact and trying to get tougher shots up on the rim when he gets to the hole. I'm expecting big things from Jrue in this one.
Prediction: Sixers 90, Nets 78
Previous game capsule
The tip is at 7pm, game thread will be up at 5:30.