There's your starting PG, SG, SF combo, folks. J.T.I. has been put on hold in favor of J.I.K. Spencer Hawes limped into the starting lineup, literally. Elton Brand is your starting PF by default. A team with ten times as many questions as answers will be put to the test immediately by Wade and his sidekicks. Let's break it down.
No need to build suspense, I've got Miami winning this one handily. I'll go with 104-82 as your final, with Lou, Meeks and Speights making it almost respectable with a scoring parade in garbage time.
Even a lopsided loss can have its moments, though, and there are certainly reasons to be excited for this game. First of all, if you want to see the Sixers two best defenders put to the test, it won't get any better than this. Iguodala will be glued to LeBron and Jrue Holiday will get another crack at slowing down Dwyane Wade. For me, that's worth the price of admission (or League Pass, as the case may be). The other three matchups, well, we lose them.
Brand may be able to body up Bosh on the offensive end and use his old man moves to do some work. If he can get this done early, expect Miami to switch it up and put Joel Anthony on Brand and give Bosh an easy defensive matchup with Hawes. I don't expect Miami to need to resort to any kind of double, mainly because I don't think the Sixers will try to ride that matchup, which is a shame.
It's unclear how Miami will line things up on the defensive end. I'd mirror the Sixers and put Wade on Jrue, LBJ on Iguodala. If they don't, Jrue will have a big matchup advantage with Arroyo guarding Jrue. Attack it early and often.
If you want to reduce things to the lowest common denominator, Miami has a lot of the same problems the Sixers do. Their starting lineup is woefully lacking shooting of any sort. Teams can, and should pack the lane against them, at least until Mike Miller returns, and probably even when he's there. Keeping LBJ and Wade out of the lane is priority number one. Spoelstra had a quick trigger in game one, playing Eddie House and James Jones a combined 53 minutes off the bench, desperately looking for a way to space the floor and create room for Wade and LeBron. It didn't work against Boston, but Boston actually has a couple of legitimate bigs on their roster, so I'm not sure the Sixers will be as successful.
Let's hit on a couple keys:
- Take care of the ball - Jrue and Turner especially have to be very assertive with their passes on the perimeter. LeBron and Wade are both freak athletes who love to play the passing lanes. No lazy passes. The Sixers are going to struggle to score when they get shots up, the last thing they can afford is to carelessly give away possessions and give Miami transition points going the other way.
- Play smart defense - Dare Wade and LeBron to take jumpers. Neither guy is a terrible shooter, but if they're driving, they're going to hurt you in so many different ways. Make LBJ a catch-and-shoot player and you've done your job.
- When in doubt, run - Every rebound, every steal, every made hoop, look to get the ball up the court quickly before Miami's defense is set and look to hit the seams. Even a delayed break is better than setting up the half-court offense. And since Kapono is in the lineup, look for him in transition. May as well get something out of that bargain. When you are in the half court, don't make things easy for Wade and LBJ, make them work on both ends.
That should be enough keys. I'll leave you with two things to watch for: (1) Jrue told Kate Fagan he's got a signature move he didn't break out in the preseason, let's see if we can spot it, (2) What type of plays does Collins call out of timeouts, and how effective are they. Larry Brown always seemed to get a lob out of timeouts, will Collins be looking to free Kapono for a three?
Thoughts, concerns, predictions and breaking news in the comments. The game thread will be up later in the day. Check the reading list for relevant Sixers news. And if you're going to the game, be sure to upload any pictures you take to the Depressed Fan Facebook page.