The break is over, the trade deadline is tomorrow and the Sixers will lace 'em up in Minnesota tonight sans Andrew Bynum and Thad Young. The TWolves have been atrocious since Kevin Love went down with a broken hand, the only thing uglier than their 3-16 record over their past 19? Rubio's shooting percentages.
Rubio is shooting a sparkling 46.6% at the rim so far this season. I say sparkling, because he's shooting 34.3% outside of three feet and he caps those impressive numbers off with 13% from deep. Play off him. I mean WAAAAY off him. Jrue, go under every screen until Rubio proves he can hit shots. Lag off him, cut off passing lanes. You have to dare Rubio to beat you with his jumper. If he's hot, adjust, but this has to be the game plan going in. Make him shoot jumpers, and don't send him to the line. In their last game, Rubio was 2/13 from the floor and 12/13 from the line. Absurd.
The guys you need to worry about on the offensive end are Pekovic and AK47 (who is returning from injury in time to get matched up with Evan Turner). Truth be told, the Sixers should probably stick to a similar defensive game plan that saw them lose to Minnesota by 17 back in December. They concentrated on protecting the defensive glass and packing the lane. Minnesota, the team's worst three-point shooting team (30%) hit 13/25 from deep that night. I'd say if you get hold the T-Wolves to 7 o-boards and get them to jack up 25 threes you're going to win about 99% of the time.
On offense, Jrue has an advantage, but Rubio's very good at getting his hand on the ball. He needs to concentrate on his handle and especially watch for the backdoor trap Jennings got him on a couple of times in Milwaukee. Attack the paint. Minnesota doesn't have a legit shotblocker. Their only truly legit defender is Kirilenko, who will probably tie Turner in knots. Nick Young should have no problem working against Ridnour, but the defender guarding him is rarely the problem with Nick. If he's hot, the opportunities will be there all night.
A couple things to keep an eye on. Derrick Williams is coming off his best game as a pro. Ridnour is excellent on the long two, a shot the Sixers will give Minny. Pargo needs to do keep Barea out of the lane when he's guarding him. It'd be great if Lavoy could use his size and strength advantage against Williams, there should be a ton of o-boards available. Pekovic concentrates his glasswork mostly on the other end and Williams isn't exactly a dominant defensive rebounder.
31 games to go. The Sixers need to finish strong in a big way to have any chance at the playoffs. It starts tonight.
The tip is at 8pm. This is your game thread. NJ Transit-willing, I'll be here throughout. Join me if you'd like to get caught up in an empty playoff push!