There are teams the Sixers, even the pitiful version of themselves they've become, can sort of gird their loins to compete with. They can bring extra energy. They can show some semblance of the team they were last season. Against the Magic, however, I don't think that type of effort will make a bit of difference against this team, and this coach. Preview and game thread after the jump.
Forget about Iguodala's jumper, Brand's lack of rebounding, Willie Green's pulse and Dalembert's propensity for foul trouble for a second, and think about the Sixers' coach, Mr. Edward Jordan.
If you think back to how the Sixers beat the Magic a couple of times in the playoffs last season, it was simple. They single-covered Dwight Howard with either Sam Dalembert or Theo Ratliff, lived with whatever he got, and did their absolute best to stick with the three-point shooters on the perimeter, limiting open looks at the money ball. Stan Van Gundy eventually realized he could force either exploit Thad at the four on the blocks with Rashard Lewis, or force a switch that would get Iguodala off Hedo Turkoglu, and it all fell apart from there.
Now consider everything we've learned about Eddie Jordan's defensive mind through the first 70 games of this season. OK, that may be a bit broad. Instead, just think about what a complete imbecile Eddie Jordan is when it comes to defense. To put it bluntly, I expect Stan Van Gundy has every game against this Sixers squad circled on his calendar, because he knows he can do absolutely anything he wants on the offensive end.
Here's what I expect tonight:
- Constant double-teaming of Dwight Howard, with or without Sam on the floor.
- Relative to the first point, countless open looks from three for a team that loves nothing more than to shoot the three and typically has 3 or 4 above league-average shooters on the court.
- A heaping helping of over helping
- Ridiculous pick-and-roll defense that neither takes the ball handler, nor the big out of the play
- Lineups with up to 4 defensive sieves on the floor at one time, possibly 5.
If you'd like a prediction, it's pretty simple. If the Sixers come out shooting the ball unbelievably well, we're going to see a tight, high-scoring game through the first quarter, possibly even the first half. Then the Sixers will cool and Orlando will not. Marreese Speights and Jason Smith will foul Dwight Howard with great regularity (I expect one or both of them to foul out). Basically, if the Sixers shoot above 50% in the first half, it'll look like a game heading into the break, but in the end, Orlando will win by 15 points, minimum.
If the Sixers coming out shooting like the Sixers, the game will be out of reach early and we'll probably see extending minutes for Kapono and Meeks down the stretch.
Essentially, the Sixers offense doesn't really matter. The only difference being if they make shots, it'll look like a game early. If they don't make shots, it's over before the opening tip. They'll lose this game, like so many others, on the defensive end.
This is your game thread. The tip is at 7, I'll be here throughout. Join me if you think Duke is overrated.