Professional basketball in the state of New Jersey will be put out of its misery tonight. The Sixers will play the final Nets game in the Garden State. A game that doesn't mean anything in a state that couldn't care less about the team they're losing, but for the Sixers, there's plenty on the line.
The playoff picture is still up in the air. In fact, the Sixers ticket hasn't been punched and they're more than capable of dropping these three games and watching the first round on the TV with the rest of us. The only thing I want tonight is a win. I want the berth secured as soon as possible. I don't want the Sixers to drop the season series to the Nets. Go into Newark, put forth a similar effort to what we saw against the Pacers on Saturday and get it done. Secure the berth and a +.500 season for the first time in seven years. Get it done.
If you look back at the Sixers' two losses to the Nets, I think they really came down to coaching. It pains me to say it, but Avery Johnson got the better of Collins both times. In the first game, Collins continued to switch perimeter pick-and-rolls throughout the game, allowing Deron Williams to get Jodie Meeks on him whenever he wanted it. Williams exploded. In the second loss, Collins kept Andre Iguodala glued to DeShawn Stevenson while Marshon Brooks abused Meeks. Then he left Thad on Gerald Green long after it was obvious to everyone Green was insanely hot. The Nets also stifled the Sixers with a zone. Collins' didn't have an answer (the Sixers shooting 1/10 from three didn't help). If Collins can be less rigid tonight, if he can react to what's happening on the floor, they should be fine. Honestly, they should be fine either way. The Nets are terrible.
Keys against the Nets never really change. Contain Deron's scoring. Keep Humphries off the glass. I'll add a third. Keep Hawes on the bench. I don't need to see another NBADL center dunk on his head.
The Nets have been marketing this game as the last in NJ. I'm not sure how, but I'm sure they'll be pulling out all the stops. I was able to score tickets right behind the Sixers bench for something like 1/3 of face value, so obviously demand was sky high. Look for me during the game, I'll be the guy shaking his head whenever Hawes goes into the game.
The tip is at 7:30pm. Game thread will land at about 5:30.