Last night we saw the Sixers pull together as a unit. In fact, we saw them pick up a ton of slack and absolutely shut down the Spurs without Dalembert for the final 18 minutes. Tonight, they're playing the second night of a back-to-back in Chicago, against a Bulls team that squeaked one out in Minnesota last night. Two tired teams, pretty evenly matched on talent, it's probably going to come down to who wants it more. Preview and game thread after the jump.
The Sixers will actually come into the game in much better shape than Chicago. Only Jrue (45) and Iguodala (42) really played extended minutes against San Antonio. Brand played 33, everyone else was under 30. Chicago had 5 players over 30, with Rose, Hinrich, Miller and Deng all logging north of 35. Chicago will also be missing Joakim Noah, which is a huge blow. Brad Miller is as immobile as any center in the league.
I believe Jason Smith will be out again, I'm hoping Willie Green will be as well. Let's take a quick look at the matchups:
Jrue vs. Rose - How could you not be excited for that matchup? Last time, we didn't get to see a whole lot of Jrue guarding Rose, what we did see was nice. I'm praying for another 40+ minutes for the kid.
Iverson vs. Hinrich - Does Hinrich have any kind of a post game? If he does, he could cause problems, but I can't recall seeing him use his height advantage at any time in the past. Iverson's shot has been way off since he came back, maybe the back-to-back will help him shake some rust.
Iguodala vs. Deng - Iguodala looked tired the last time the team played a b-to-b, there can be no letdown tonight. They need him to win this matchup.
Brand vs. Taj Gibson - Gibson is turning in a strong defensive rookie year. 9.7 rebounds/36, 1.7 blocks and 0.9 steals. He isn't much of anything on the offensive end, but those are nice defensive numbers. I have a feeling EB is going to be needed, because Chicago does a good job of keeping teams in the half court. If EB is off, this is probably going to turn into a jump-shooting contest.
Dalembert vs. Brad Miller - I'd love to see Sammy play with a huge chip on his shoulder. He was legitimately pissed off last night, more angry than I've ever seen him. He's well-rested, and honestly, Brad Miller is a stiff of the highest order these days. I'd love to see a 20/20 game out of the Sensation.
Bench - Chicago's bench took a major hit at the trade deadline. Flip Murray and Hakim Warrick are their two newest acquisitions, both of those guys have lit up the Sixers in the past, but I'm giving the edge to the Sixers with a huge caveat. If Lou and Thad play like they did down the stretch against the Spurs, they'll dominate. If they play like they did in the first half, it's going to be a long night.
Key to The Game: Tight rotations. Keep it like it was last night, EFJ, and you've got a shot.
If _____________ the Sixers will win: The guys in that locker room realize they like being able to laugh on the bench in the fourth quarter, and somehow find that "us vs. the world" attitude that's fueled them in the second half the past three seasons.
This is your game thread. If you're feeling down because the Sixers won last night, I don't know what to tell you. I understand it, but I simply cannot be upset when the gives that kind of effort and takes down a quality team. If they get lucky and win games, fine, I'll probably be ambivalent, but when they win by using their defense to fuel their running game, like they were built to do, I can't help but enjoy it.
The tip is at 8 p.m. I'll be right here throughout hoping for a repeat of last night's performance (but expecting much less). Join me if you think winning isn't necessarily a bad thing.