A three-game win streak is great. Two on the road, even better. One at Toronto, great. I know I've been feeling a lot better about this team and their future over the past three off days. That can all change very quickly, though. In fact, it changed pretty quickly after the All Star break last year, in Minnesota against the T-Wolves.
If you can remember back that far, the Sixers finished the first half on a great note. They were coming out of the break with a favorable schedule laid out in front of them and they were looking to make up some ground in the eastern conference. The stars seemed to be aligned until the T-Wolves blew their doors off
and crushed everyone's confidence. It was the ultimate trap game and the Sixers fell right into it.
After the jump we'll take a look at the T-Wolves and pick out a couple of keys for coming away with a win and a record over .500 for the first time this season.
The T-Wolves, my embarrassing pick to click
in the Western conference, come into the game at 1-8. Let's not talk about how Philly teams have fared against 1-8 teams this week, though. Let's try to stay positive.
First, we should look at how Minnesota got to where they are right now. Of their 8 losses, they lost two games in overtime and blew fourth quarter leads in two more. This record could be deceiving. Minnesota is led by their big man, Al Jefferson, who has turned into a complete beast on the low blocks. Elton Brand will have his hands full with Big Al, the key will be making the T-Wolves' bigs on the defensive end. Al isn't what I'd call a plus defender, Ryan Gomes is under-sized and Kevin Love doesn't have the foot speed to keep up with EB. That's a big advantage and the Sixers need to capitalize.
Speaking of the bigs, at some point, the T-Wolves will move Kevin Love into the starting lineup, but he isn't there yet. This is an advantage, Gomes is averaging a paltry 3.8 rebounds in nearly 26 minutes/game. In fact, as a team, Minnesota is getting outworked on the boards by 3 per game. This does not bode well.
What do the Sixers need to avoid? Well, there's always the standby area of emphasis, defending the three. We can boil this one down pretty quickly, never, never, never, ever, never, nomatterwhathappens, double off of Mike Miller. Miller is shooting 42% from three. If you're going to double, and I think it's probably a good idea if you can stay disciplined, you have a couple of options as to who you can leave, namely Rashad McCants (shooting 18.8% from 3, averaging 3.6 attempts/game) and Randy Foye (shooting 24.1% from 3, averaging 3.2 attempts/game). Those two guys aren't shy about heaving threes, and it's probably in the Sixers' best interests to encourage them to keep gunning. Gomes has been surprisingly solid from range, he's hitting at a 37.5% clip, as opposed to 33% last year. He's also averaging nearly 2 attempts/game, so Sammy or EB is going to have to vacate the lane when he drifts on the perimeter.
Truth be told, the Sixers should have no problems at all scoring against this team. They've got advantages at 4 off 5 positions when the starters are on the floor, and even Sammy is probably a wash. The tip is at 8. Leave your thoughts in the comments, as usual.
I usually try to pick one thing to follow throughout the game (Iguodala's shots, EB's touches in the post, passes/possession when Lou is running the point). After three days off, I could use some suggestions for what to keep track of tonight. It should be something you can't pull out of a box score, and something that sheds some light on the inner-workings and/or true performance of the team. Leave your ideas in the comments.