11 days and three losses ago, the Sixers learned what it takes to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. They also learned how to let the Cavs run all over them. Which lesson stuck? We're going to find that out tonight, in Cleveland, when the Sixers try to break their three-game losing streak and bookend this road trip with W's.
Check out the game capsule of their previous game here.
It wasn't hard to discern how the Sixers lost their previous matchup. Cleveland grabbed almost 40% of their available offensive rebounds and went to the line 48 times. Other than that, the Sixers played a stellar game. Jrue Holiday had his way with whoever attempted to guard him, scoring 29 points on 17 shots and handing out 8 assists with zero turnovers. Spencer Hawes played an impossibly bad game. In his six minutes, the Sixers were outscored 19-3. Collins actually made the decision to with Battie to start the third quarter, Hawes was never heard from again after his second pitiful stint on the floor. Varejao hit all 10 of his shots to lead Cleveland.
So, those lessons we learned? Well, for starters, the Sixers need to focus on the defensive glass. The frontcourt is going to be overmatched, as usual, so it's imperative that the smalls help out on the glass. This effort would be aided greatly if Evan Turner saw 35 minutes or so, but it can't just be him. Iguodala and Jrue both need to forget about leaking out. Send five guys to the defensive glass, make sure you secure the rebound, then push the ball up the floor. Early offense isn't as effective as pure transition, but hustling down the floor could allow Brand to get JJ Hickson on the blocks, rather than Sideshow Bob (if he plays), which is a big advantage for the Sixers.
In the half court, look for Jrue to attack Mo Williams (if he plays) and Boobie Gibson, much like he did the last time. Iguodala needs to continue to go to the hole and use his size to create a mismatch closer to the hoop. He's made a concerted effort since coming back from his achilles sprain, keep it up.
Both Mo Williams and Varejao are currently listed as questionable for tonight's game. I'm guessing they'll both play based purely on the "Sixer have no luck," theory.
Everyone seems to be excited for Evan Turner's first real game back in Ohio. I don't really care about home towns, unless of course Collins will be motivated to give Turner extra minutes and the slightly elevated importance of the game to Turner will light a fire under him.
Ultimately, these teams are pretty evenly matched. Take Varejao out of the equation, and the advantage has to fall to the Sixers. If they can manage to keep Cleveland's free throw attempts to a decent number, they've got a good shot at picking up their third win.
Matchup to Watch: Elton Brand and Thad Young vs. Antawn Jamison. Jamison has had some huge games against the Sixers in the past. Brand will have to cover him out to three point range, which is a challenge. If the Cavs have done any scouting, you can expect both Jamison and Hickson to run a ton of pick-and-pops with the guards. If those plays wind up with 18-foot jumpers from the bigs, I like our chances. If they wind up with endless penetration by the guards, it could be another disappointment.
Prediction: Sixers 115, Cavs 107
The tip is at 7:30, game thread will be up at 6. Your predictions and thoughts in the comments.