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There's only one question which needs to be answered tonight. Can the Sixers do it one more time?

Since February, the Sixers have won 11 games they really had no business winning. Eleven times, they went into games against teams with better records, sometimes in hostile environments, and they bucked the odds and won. Four of those wins came against these Pistons. Do they have enough resiliency to bounce back from 6 straight bad quarters and extend this series, and their miraculous season? My brain says no, but my gut says yes.

So, how can they do it? We'll start with defense. First of all, they need to find a way to force the Pistons into taking jumpers, then they have to find a way to do a better job of contesting those jumpers. They've done a very good job of pushing the Pistons out onto the the perimeter (see the shot chart below from game 5), but their rotations have been slow, at times. The old axiom, "live by the three, die by the three," does apply, but they'll only die by the three if the looks are contested.

pistonsgame5shots.jpg
The other part of defense they absolutely have to shore up is rebounding. I lost count of how many times the Sixers played tough D in the second half of game 5, forced the Pistons into a bad shot against the clock, then allowed them to get the offensive rebound. This absolutely kills any momentum gained by tough defense. Sometimes it's technique, which is bad enough, but sometimes it's just hunger and that's unacceptable. Whenever a ball is up for grabs the Sixers need to be on the floor or in the air quicker than the Pistons. They're younger, they're more athletic, they absolutely have to secure the loose balls.

On offense, things are much simpler. Convert on easy opportunities. The refs are not giving the Sixers any calls in the paint. Fine, you have to deal with that. Iguodala has to stop trying to force things inside, he needs to find the open man when the defense collapses on him. Beyond that, stop missing layups. Andre Miller shot 5/17 from the floor in game 5, at least 5 or 6 of those misses came inside the paint on easy opportunities. Cut those misses out and it would've been a much closer game. Can anyone count the number of fastbreak opportunities which were blown due to bad passes, blocked shots or just missed layups/dunks? Those are free points and this is the most frustrating thing about the series for me. The offense is working. The running game is working. The Sixers just aren't finishing easy opportunities at a high enough rate.

If the season isn't going to end tonight, the Sixers can't leave points on the table and they can't have lapses on defense. Play a solid game tonight. That's it.

Those are a few keys to show how the Sixers can win. I can't give you too many reasons why they should win. All I can do is tune in at 8 p.m. tonight and wait for another surprise from this team who's provided so many over the past couple of months.

No live blog tonight, we'll handle this one just like game 3.
by Brian on May 1 2008
Tags: Basketball | Do Or Die | Pistons | Playoffs | Sixers |