For the second time in three days, the Sixers will take on a team bound for the playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks put on an offensive show against the Grizzlies on Wednesday, dropping 119 points in a 15-point win. This team isn't searching for the offensive identity like the Heat were, they're familiar with each other and they're going to present significant matchup problems.
I haven't heard word on the starting lineup, and I'm really not sure it matters a whole lot considering Collins quick trigger with subs. Instead of getting hung up on who Kapono will cover for his dozen minutes, let's just look at some key matchups that will probably occur throughout the game:
- Jrue vs. Bibby - If you recall, Bibby torched Jrue last season, mainly with threes. If Jrue draws that assignment, he absolutely has to crowd Bibby. At this stage of his career, Bibby is not a threat to drive. Don't leave him to help and don't give him any airspace, even when he's dribbling near the three-point line. On the offensive end, this is a matchup Jrue should be able to exploit. He's going to need to use his dribble to pressure the defense. Driving past Bibby will draw multiple help defenders and open up interior passes for easy opportunities.
- Brand vs. Josh Smith - Big, big mismatch problem here. Smith has an astronomical athletic advantage over Brand. The best thing EB can do is to lag off Smith and dare him to take any shot outside of the paint. If he's up on Smith, Smith will blow by him off the dribble and punish Hawes or whoever else is trying to cover him. Against a guy Smith's size, I'd say Brand would be able to do work on the offensive end, but Smith is just too long and too good of a shotblocker. The best thing to do would be to utilize Brand in the pick-and-pop game. If he knocks down a couple 15-footers, Smith may just be drawn away from the hoop (he had 5 blocks in Wednesday's game).
- Marvin Williams - Williams is the type of player I hate. A guy who's content to shoot long twos all day long. Use that to your advantage. Double off of him (he doesn't shoot many threes and he doesn't shoot them particularly well). Consider any possession that ends with a Marvin Williams 20-footer a win. He'd actually be a good matchup for Thad.
- Thad vs. Josh Smith and/or Al Horford - Terrible, terrible matchup for Thad on offense. He won't have his normal quickness advantage against either of these guys. On the defensive end, Horford will overpower Thad and Smith is just to aggressive for a passive defender like Thad. Expect dunks galore whenever that matchup presents itself.
- Pachulia and Horford - These guys are a handful for a legitimate frontcourt, the Sixers bigs don't stand a chance in the trenches. I'm expecting big offensive rebounding numbers for ATL, unless Iguodala and Turner can go toe-to-toe with them.
If Collins wanted to experiment with the starting lineup again, this would be a decent unit to do it against. If he's insistent on starting Kapono for his ball-friendliness, I like these matchups a whole lot better than the ones you'd get from the same starting lineup he used against Miami:
- PG: Jrue vs. Mike Bibby
- SG: Turner vs. Joe Johnson
- SF: Kapono vs. Marvin Williams
- PF: Iguodala vs. Josh Smith
- C: Brand vs. Al Horford
It's not going to happen as the starting lineup, but I'd love to see Collins go to it for a stretch.
Interesting Matchup - Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams playing extremely similar roles off the bench. Who wins that battle?
Prediction - ATL 108, PHI 99
Your thoughts, concerns, predictions and ball-friendly platitudes in the comments, as usual. The game thread will be up at 5:30pm, the tip is at 7.