Part one of the "hold on until Bynum hits the floor" strategy is to remain as close to .500 as possible for as long as possible. Part two is to steal as many games as you can from teams you'll be chasing for playoff position. This afternoon's game in Brooklyn is a prime example. The Sixers' first trip to Brooklyn features a game which falls into both categories.
The Sixers, Celtics and Nets are all within a game of each other for second place in the Atlantic Division. In the Eastern Conference, the Sixers are on the outside looking in at the playoff race.
The Nets will trot out four players (Wallace, Deron Williams, Lopez and Joe Johnson) making more money than anyone active on the Sixers roster. The hype surrounding the Nets has grown quiet since their quick start. Deron Williams is struggling mightily. Joe Johnson's worth continues to be about half his salary, but Brooklyn has something the Sixers are going to have a ton of problems dealing with, active bigs.
Lopez, Blatche, Reggie Evans and Humprhies all crash the offensive boards, and they crash them hard. This presents both a problem and an opportunity for the Sixers. If they can somehow manage to secure the boards - a whopper of an if - the Brooklyn bigs will all be sucked down under the hoop. That means a properly motivated big can consistently beat them down the floor, which should mean easy buckets either in transition or early offense. Thad has the opportunity to feast on such opportunities today. First, they have to get the boards, though.
One Nets game from last season sticks in mind. I believe it was their first meeting. Jrue did a really good job of holding Deron Williams in check, but he exploded late in the game when Avery Johnson realized the Sixers would switch every small-on-small screen on the perimeter. Williams used token screens from Anthony Morrow to get Jodie Meeks on him, and he went to work. It cost the Sixers the game. I hope Collins remembers that game as well.
Jrue didn't look 100% to me against the Hawks. Though he picked his spots well, he didn't have his usual burst of quickness. Hopefully, he's closer to full speed today.
Priorities one, two and three are securing the defensive boards. I expect Lopez to have a big game, as I expect most bigs with a pulse to punish the Sixers bigs. I don't know what to expect from Joe Johnson. He's typically been terrible against the Sixers, but that was mostly due to Iguodala being draped all over him. This game is going to be a big test for Turner, as well. Gerald Wallace will give him problems on both ends. Turner might be able to get a size mismatch with the second units on the floor if he can work on CJ Watson, but he won't be able to push around any of the starters.
With a glimmer of good news on the Bynum front and a quality win Friday night, the Sixers have a chance to start the Ice Capades trip on a good note, then return to Philly for a couple off days before heading out west. Let's hope they can begin the big portion of the trip with a .500 record.
The tip is at 3pm. Use this as your game thread, I'm going to be entertaining all day, but I'll catch the game on DVR tonight.