Stretch fours. Big, strong, aggressive centers. Tenacious offensive rebounders. Three things the Sixers really don't have much of an answer for, three things the Minnesota Timberwolves have in spades.
Let's forget about Nikola Pekovic for a second (but not long, because he's been playing like an absolute stud), and just focus on the problems Kevin Love will cause for the Sixers. On the one hand, Love has been a scoring machine this season (.590 TS%, 25.8 PPG, 27% USG). This would lead you to believe the Sixers absolutely need Brand's defense on him. On the other hand, Love shoots 36% from three and takes 4.5 deep balls per game. Which would lead you to believe Collins is going to have to go to Thad on Love early to cover him out to 23 feet. But on the third hand, Love averages 3.7 offensive rebounds per game, which would lead you to believe Brand has to be in there to keep him off the offensive glass. Add it all up and the Sixers have absolutely no answer for Kevin Love. Not even close. The best they can hope for is a super-productive game from either Brand, Thad or both to somewhat mitigate the damage Love does on the offensive end, and this may be possible, considering he's pretty much a sieve on defense.
As for Pekovic, well, in his 11 starts he's shooting 61% from the floor, scoring 16 points/game, and grabbing 10 boards. The most impressive thing about his play, however, is his offensive rebounding. He's grabbing 5.2 o-boards in just over 31 minutes/game as a starter. On the season he's grabbing 18.1% of available offensive rebounds when he's on the floor. For the season, the Sixers as a team grab 22.5% of available offensive rebounds. Elton Brand grabs 19% of available defensive rebounds. It's going to be a long, long night if the Sixers can't find some way to keep Pekovic and Love off the glass, or at the very least, it's going to make some very, very long possessions for the T-Wolves.
Oh, and Minny also has a guy who's pretty good at setting up those two guys for easy looks in Ricky Rubio.
This game is a bad matchup for the Sixers in that they Timberwolves don't rely on their wings or really their PG for point production. Actually, they get very little out of the two and three position, and Rubio's shooting hovers around Evan Turner territory. Andre Iguodala won't have anyone to lock down. Jrue will need to stick with Rubio, but he can comfortably go under screens in the pick-and-roll. Essentially, if the Sixers are going to win this game, on the defensive end they need to invite Minny's perimeter players to shoot. I'd say their best shot is to completely sag off everyone not named Kevin Love on the perimeter and to double down whenever either Love or Pekovic touch the ball anywhere near the hoop. They need to pressure Rubio into turnovers, and convert loose balls into baskets on the other end.
We spoke yesterday about a couple of ways to get the offense back on the track, especially concerning the guards, and I hope Collins will put at least some of that into action tonight.
The T-Wolves are far from a realized team, but they have a lot of talent at three key positions, the key is going to be forcing the other two positions to beat you.
The tip is at 7pm. Game thread will land around 5.