The Sixers team defensive efficiency rating has risen after each of the following eight games. Not since the Denver game have they played well on that end of the floor. They've won some games since then, even had a couple of solid wins, but they haven't been able to put it together on the defensive end, and really, if they can't get the job done on that end of the floor, there is no hope.
It's no coincidence the Sixers defensive woes coincide precisely with Andre Iguodala's latest absence due to achilles tendinitis. He's their anchor, and even though he was back in the lineup for the last game, he clearly wasn't himself out there. Step one is getting a healthy Iguodala back on the floor, locking down the other team's best perimeter scorer, but that isn't the final step. Teams are completely exposing the Sixers on the pick-and-roll. Against Indiana, every p&r wound up in either a clear lane for Collison to take the ball to the rim, a wide-open dive to the hoop for the Indiana big, or worse. The Sixers bigs seem incapable of hedging enough to slow down the ballhandler. If Collins decides to trap, the rotations are either non-existent or pitifully slow. When the ballhandler does get into the lane, there's no weak-side helper there to challenge the shot. It's been a breakdown in every imaginable way and Doug Collins is going to have to figure out some way to fix it.
The good news is the Sixers will have a perfect opportunity to get healthy on the defensive end later tonight when the Bucks come to town. Milwaukee sports the second-worst offensive efficiency rating in the league at 100.3, and they've been held under 100 OFR in more games than they've exceeded it. Milwaukee is a truly pitiful offensive team and their one strength is suddenly easily negated.
Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee's gifted center, has a major case of the yips from the line this season. He's shooting 42.7% from the stripe on 4.3 attempts per game. Neither Hawes nor Speights can handle Bogut on the blocks, luckily, each of them has 6 fouls they can give whenever he catches the ball down there. Foul him early and often.
Milwaukee is 5-2 when they score 100 points this season, 9-22 when they don't. If you can't stop this team from scoring at will, you've got serious, serious issues on the defensive end. Tonight has to be the night the Sixers put their foot down and reassert themselves as a defensive force.
Prediction: PHI 95, MIL 84
The tip is at 7pm tonight, game thread 90 minutes prior.