The excuses are right there. Second night of a back-to-back. Andre Iguodala out with a knee injury. Final game on a five-game road trip. If the Sixers want to go home and lick their wounds, they can pick any one of those. Or, they can take the fight to the Blazers, give them 48 minutes of hell and see if POR's creaky bones can keep up.
Well, Mr. Turner, you've gotten basically a free pass through your entire rookie season. Eighth-man on a playoff team, very little responsibility other than getting acclimated to the pro level. You've been kind of vocal about wanting to do more. Now's your chance. Without Iguodala, your team is behind the eight ball. You're going to have two very good defenders on you all night in Nicolas Batum and Gerald Wallace. If you're planning to show people that you truly belong in this league, and you're going to be a very good pro, I suggest you leave your mark in Portland, because the team is going to need you in a big way, on both ends of the floor.
In my opinion, Portland made the most important trade at the deadline for the short term. Gerald Wallace is a bruiser, and an effective basketball player. He makes their second unit extremely strong, on both ends of the floor. Add the player formerly known as Brandon Roy, and they can run with pretty much anyone's second unit. Right now, Portland is running with a small starting lineup (Aldridge at the five and Wallace at the four), but I have to believe Camby will be back in the middle by the time the playoffs start.
If the Sixers are going to have any prayer, they're probably going to need to lean on both Elton Brand and Jrue Holiday for offense and then get a big game from someone else. Ideally, it would be Turner, but anyone will do. You'd have to think Portland will use Wallace to guard Brand. He's not big enough to bother EB. If Aldridge winds up on him, he's not strong enough. Jrue needs to penetrate against Miller, especially when Camby is out of the game. Get in the lane and look to score, when they start to collapse, get in the lane and look to kick.
The defensive game plan has to be to pack the lane. Wes Matthews is their only real threat from deep, stick with him like glue. If you get Aldridge settling for long twos early on, even if he's making them, he's going to shoot them out of the game eventually. I love Andre Miller, but he can absolutely be defended. On the pick and roll, I want to see the bigs up on their man and showing just enough for Jrue to bounce under the screen and stop penetration. If Milller spends the night taking long twos, I'm fine with that. I just don't want him getting into the lane. There's no reason to fight over screens with Miller, because he's not a threat to hit the three. If Aldridge seems intent on working on the blocks and you need to double, send Jrue off Miller.
- PG: Jrue Holiday vs. Andre Miller
- SG: Jodie Meeks vs. Wesley Matthews
- SF: Evan Turner vs. Nicolas Batum
- PF: Elton Brand vs. Gerald Wallace
- C: Spencer Hawes vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Keep an eye on the rotations tonight. Ideally, Turner will step right in for Iguodala and play 35+ minutes, with Nocioni only taking 10 or so off the bench, if that. If Turner struggles, though, Collins is going to be forced to either give the mullet extended burn, go with a huge lineup (Thad at the three), or go extremely small on the perimeter with Jrue, Lou and Meeks.
I'm not expecting the Sixers to win this game, but man do I want them to. If they can salvage a 3-2 record out of this road trip after losing those first two stinkers would be monumental. I'd also like to see them keep the pressure on both Atlanta and New York.
PHI 95, POR 98
If there's one saving grace, Portland is going to play small a lot in this game. Typically, the Sixers can out-small anyone. Let's hope this game is no different. Let's see what you've got, rook!
The tip is at 10pm, Eastern. This is your game thread. I'll be right here throughout, join me if you really want to believe.