Can the Sixers extend this improbable winning streak to four? Your guess is as good as mine, but we'll break it down after the jump anyway.
I'm going to boil this preview down to one thing, quickness. If Aaron Brooks gets 25+ minutes to do his thing against Lou Williams or Willie Green, he's going to absolutely wreak havoc with his quickness. If Elton Brand, Sam Dalembert and Thad Young aren't hyper-diligent in making sure they put a body on a man, Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes are going to use their relative quickness to eat us alive on the offensive glass.
The Rockets are a hodgepodge of "moneyball" type players who do more than you think they're capable of once you put them on a basketball court, and if you get caught up in what they're doing and how they're doing it, you're going to wind up playing right into their hands. The fact of the matter is the Sixers have an enormous talent advantage heading into this one. Andre Iguodala will be the best player on the court, Elton Brand will probably be second. Houston has no one who can stop Brand in the post. They have no one who can keep Dalembert off the glass.
When the Sixers have the ball, Shane Battier is a defensive stud. It's not athleticism, it's mostly his brain and his preparation. He uses scouting reports to get his man to do things that he simply isn't successful doing. In Iguodala's case, that means shooting long jumpers. So keep your eyes open tonight. If you see AI9 heaving a ton of shots, or maybe driving left exclusively, something subtle like that, then Battier's winning that battle. If Iguodala is working extra hard to not take what the defense gives him, but what he wants to take, he's playing an excellent offensive game against a tough defender.
Allen Iverson is going to miss his third consecutive game, meaning Willie is probably going to get the nod at the two. If Eddie Jordan is even dumber than I thought, you could see Jrue switched to Trevor Ariza (Houston's 6'8" shooting guard) and Willie on Brooks. Jrue does have a better chance at making up the height deficit with Ariza, but he's also got a much, much better shot of staying in front of Brooks, which should really be the defensive priority.
The Rockets beat the Grizzlies handily last night, in Memphis. They used a 9-man rotation and didn't extend any starters beyond 35 minutes, so they should be relatively well-rested. Their bench is productive, offensively, so I'd expect some fireworks when Jordan goes with his all offense second unit.
Keys to The Game: Containing Brooks and keeping Houston off the offensive glass.
If ___________ the Sixers will win: Jrue, Iguodala and Ivey spend the majority of the game guarding Brooks.
Sub to Watch for: Carney should be in the rotation at the two tonight to match up with Ariza.
Tip is at 8:30, I'll be right here. Join me if this winning streak has you feeling less-than thrilled.