Like the vast majority of my sports-related wishes, I don't think this one is going to come true. But wish I will. One thing would make this New Orleans/Philadelphia game extremely enjoyable for me, seeing how Jrue Holiday stacks up with the premier point guard in the league, Chris Paul. You can even take it a step further and look forward to Jrue on Paul's backup, and Jrue's college teammate Darren Collison. Unfortunately, if Iverson is healthy I expect Jrue's minutes to take a major hit. Preview and game thread after the jump.
Let's catch up on the team's advanced stats before we dive into the preview:
I added some color to display how the Sixers have performed relative to league average (roughly 106.6) in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency.
And now, your preview.
The Hornets are coming in riding a 6-game win streak, the last two of which came against the dregs of the league (New Jersey and Washington), they're also playing the tail end of a back-to-back.
New Orleans surrounds the best ballhandler in the league with two guys who can really shoot it from deep (Devin Brown and Peja), a power forward who can, and does, step out to about 20 feet and a center who's capable of scoring down on the blocks. It's a pretty potent mix, when they're all healthy. It's a lineup the Sixers will most likely have a ton of trouble keeping in check.
The starting lineup will have huge matchup problems, beginning with who will guard Chris Paul. Neither Iverson, nor Williams nor Green (depending on Iverson's availability) will be able to keep Paul from wreaking havoc in the lane. Whoever gets the off guard will need to stick with Brown on the perimeter. Same goes for Peja. Thad cannot handle West (I'll get back to this in a moment) and Okafor has a big strength advantage on Sammy around the rim.
Assuming the nonsensical starting lineup, I'm going to say one adjustment should be made immediately. Thad should be switched out on Peja, who isn't a threat in any way other than standing behind the three-point line and jacking bombs. Iguodala should be put on West. I mentioned in an earlier post how Iguodala fares pretty well when he's at a size mismatch, I'd put that to the test and use Iguodala's strength and quickness to limit West's mismatch. The way I see it, putting Iguodala on Brown or Peja is a waste of his talents, they're both basically stationary threats out on the perimeter. Putting him on West is the best matchup you can get with the small ball lineup.
On the offensive end, Paul loves to play the passing lanes, so perimeter passes must be crisp. Peja is a complete zero and Iguodala absolutely must exploit that mismatch. By exploit, I don't mean one dribble to back him off and an 18-foot jumper, either. I mean take him right to the rack, make Okafor commit to helping and then getting easy dunks for Sammy/Brand/Speights. Make New Orleans pay for every minute they go with Peja on the floor. If New Orleans switches the matchup, then Thad needs to attack him the same way.
Since West is a four who can stretch the floor a bit, I'd expect Brand's minutes to be low, as usual. Speights has been the forgotten man, recently, but he could do some serious work with West on him, but God forbid we see Speights at the four and Sam at the five, even for a couple minutes.
Anyway, I'm not going to outright predict a loss, simply because Paul played 42 minutes last night, and my predicted losses have been huge reverse jinxes all season long. I'm going to say the Sixers will be within 10 points in the second half, either way. That's as bold as I'm willing to get these days.
Key to The Game:
Threes, defending them.
If __________ the Sixers will win:
The Sixers make Chris Paul a scorer first. I'd rather have him shooting floaters than hitting wide-open shooters for threes. Make Paul take 20+ shots and take your chances.
This is your game thread. The tip is at 7 p.m. I'll be right here throughout, so join me for some lighthearted Eddie J. bashing.