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To put it kindly, Elton Brand probably won't be receiving a Christmas card from this man:

dunleavysr.jpg
baronclippers.gifLong story, short, EB opted out of his contract with the Clippers, ostensibly so the team would have cap space to sign the guy to the right. After the Clips signed him, Dunleavy thought Brand would re-sign at a somewhat discounted rate. EB said no way, bolted to Philly and now the Clippers are a miserable 2-9 while the Sixers are a disappointing 5-6. tonight will be the first time the teams meet.

There's another storyline here as well, but probably only for me, you and others who follow the Sixers a little too closely. Back in the 2007 draft, everyone and their mother thought the Sixers were going to draft Al Thornton with the #12 pick. He was an old senior coming out of FSU and thought to be more NBA ready than Thad Young. After seeing Thornton play last season, I was convinced picking Thad over Thornton would probably wind up being the most important decision this franchise made in the decade. The two will each come into the game as his team's leading scorer tonight. Thornton has been impressive, but nowhere near Thad's level. They should go head to head.

Stats and a breakdown after the jump.

Looking at the Clippers' team stats, it's no wonder they're 2-9. The hold an advantage in exactly one of the 26 categories tracked by ESPN, blocked shots. Most of the margins aren't that close. If you had to pick a strength of this team, it would be interior defense.

They essentially play with two centers on the court, Kaman and Camby. Either one of those guys can cause big problems for Elton Brand on the blocks, he has trouble shooting over guys with a big height advantage. The Sixers are going to have to get them away from the hoop, maybe use pick and roll or pick and pop sets to free Brand up for 15 footers.

The Clippers are probably questioning their investment in Baron Davis right about now. Their marquee acquisition is averaging 15.5 points and 8 assists per game, but his shooting numbers are putrid. He's hitting at a 36% clip from the floor and only 25% from three. Baron is the type of guy who can pick a team up and carry them for long stretches, but he's also capable of shooting his team right out of the game. Miller is going to have to read Baron throughout the game to see how he should play the pick and roll. If Baron's hot, you have to fight over screens or switch them, if he's throwing up bricks, go under and dare him to shoot from range.

Dunleavy Sr. has a short bench to work with, and he hasn't gotten positive production out of any of this top three favorite units. If you're looking for a three-point threat, Thornton is shooting the best from downtown (41%) and Eric Gordon is shooting above average off the bench (37%), no one else is over 33%. Baron is attempting an amazing 6.5 per game, while hitting only 1.6.

Looking at the match-ups, I think this game has to be won on the wings. Cuttino Mobley is a horrible defender at the two, and there's no way he can handle Iguodala down on the blocks. I'd go to Andre down there early and often. Al Thornton isn't exactly a tenacious defender either. Again, Thad should go to work down low, if possible. The Sixers should look to play an inside-out game. Dalembert and Brand need to set up at the elbows when Iguodala and Thad go down to the blocks to draw Kaman and Camby away from the hoop. If their man drops off them to help, you've got a high-percentage jumper from a big man at the foul line, which is a good possession, as far as I'm concerned.

One thing to be warry of is dribble penetration by the Sixers. If they're going in there and kicking back out for threes, or drawing shot blockers and then dishing off to bigs for easy finishes things will go smoothly. If they're going in there with their heads down looking to convert or draw fouls, you're going to see a ton of blocked shots by Camby and Kaman. Those guys know what they're doing down there and they're going to get the benefit of the doubt on contact because they have reputations as shot blockers. Iguodala and Lou need to be especially aware of this.

I may be a little biased here, since I picked Minnesota to be greatly improved this season, but the loss at Minnesota doesn't have me that upset. I think they're a pretty good team, or at least have the potential to be. The Clippers are not. This game has to be a win. There are only so many games you can give away early in the season before they start having an impact on where you wind up at the end of the season. This game needs to be the beginning of a winning streak.

Tip is at 7, leave your thoughts and suggestions for a stat/trend to track during the game.