When the final buzzer sounds, Jrue Holiday will be on his way to LA to compete in the Rookies vs. Sophs challenge on All Star Weekend. Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand will be headed home for some well-deserved rest. Lou Williams will probably be headed to a recording studio. Spencer Hawes will probably be doing anything he can to avoid improving his basketball game. The Sixers players, as human beings, have things to look forward to, but they cannot afford to start their vacation a day early.
Much like the Sixers, Houston is a team that has performed much better than their record, statistically. Their expected record is 29-27, their actual record just 26-30. They're a high-octane offensive team (6th in OFR) that likes to push the pace (7th in pace) and doesn't like to defend (23rd in DFR). When you look at the roster General Manager Darryl "The Wizard" Morey has built, it's not hard to figure out why.
Their starting lineup boasts two defenders, two completely hopeless cases defensively, and a 6'6" center. Battier isn't what he once was, but I do like Lowry at the point, defensively. The Sixers will have numerous mismatches to exploit, and they shouldn't have a problem exploiting them with their better offensive players. Neither Scola nor Hayes should slow Brand down in the least. This is actually a game where I'd toy with moving Thad into the starting lineup in place of Hawes. The Rockets are painfully small up front, to the point where you can put Thad on their center, let Brand cover Scola, and still reasonably expect to handle the defensive glass. Neither Scola nor Hayes has a prayer of matching Thad's speed, nor Brand's strength/size. The Brand/Thad front court could really dominate this game. It's doubtful Collins would make the move to start the game, but a quick hook for Hawes in favor of Thad wouldn't be a shock.
Off the bench, keep an eye on Courtney Lee (if he isn't traded in the next six hours). He's scored 20+ in two of their last three games. It looks like the Rockets go 9 deep, with their bench four being Lee, Budinger, Jordan Hill and Aaron Brooks. Unless Brooks completely goes off, I think the Sixers have an advantage on the bench as well, and Brooks is more likely to kill the Rockets with his shooting than the Sixers.
I hope we see a cross match in the starters, with Iguodala taking out his frustrations over last night's game on Kevin Martin and Meeks just keeping an eye on Battier. Jrue vs. Lowry should be a fun matchup, Lowry's a physical PG.
Prediction: PHI 109, HOU 101. I think they show some resolve and focus heading into the break.
The tip is at 8:30pm (Eastern). Game thread 90 minutes prior.