Every stat will tell you the Sixers have been one of the best teams in the league to this point, if not the single best. They've been murdering teams, dominating with their defense and pummeling with their offense. Their detractors will ask, "Who have they played?" Well, tonight they have a chance to take down a playoff team from last season in the Pacers. A team that's 6-2 and sports some impressive defensive stats of their own.
Offensively, the Pacers have been a nightmare, and they've been dragged down by the abysmal shooting of Danny Granger. Granger is shooting 30.7% from the floor, but he certainly isn't cutting down on his attempts (16.5 FGA/36 min). When I see numbers like that from a guy who's been a pretty good shooter for his entire career, it actually worries me. I always think they're going to break out against the Sixers. I'm hoping Doug Collins will glue Iguodala to Granger all night, just to make sure that doesn't happen.
Up front, Roy Hibbert is off to a solid start (though it's unbelievable how rarely he gets to the line), while David West is not. Tyler Hansbrough has one of the most amazing stats I've ever seen. He's played 222 minutes, attempted 87 shots and has zero assists. That's completely unbelievable to me. You'd think you can take advantage of that aversion to passing somehow, maybe by doubling him, but you really don't need to. Let the Pacers give the ball to the black hole and let him shoot, he's hitting only 39% of his shots.
Unless someone bucks their early season trend, the defensive game plan is pretty simple. Double Hibbert, get the ball out of his hands, and make sure you don't leave Paul George or Darren Collison open for threes. No matter who winds up taking the shots, the Sixers need to be extra diligent in controlling the defensive glass. Hansbrough, Hibbert, West, Amundson and Foster are all excellent on the offensive glass (and they get plenty of opportunities with all the shots their team misses). If anything is going to submarine the Sixers' D, it's going to be rebounding.
If Indy's starting lineup gives the Sixers problems, I'd expect to see Turner in there sooner rather than later. Paul George has a big size mismatch with Jodie on him, and they're going to need Jrue's defense on Collison. Turner can man up on Paul and take away the advantage.
On the offensive end, Jrue's got a big size advantage on Collison, and he needs to exploit it. He bullied Calderon a couple of times in the Toronto game, whenever there's a lull on the offensive end, they should go to Jrue. West is a guy who Brand can do work against, go at that as well.
This is the last game where the Sixers will really be rested for the next week. They need to come out strong against the Pacers and press every advantage they can create. I'd also hope they play this game without an eye toward the next two. If you have enough of a lead, go ahead and rest the guys, but until the game is decided, use your normal rotations. Three games in three nights is nothing to toy with, but it's not worth sacrificing a game at this point. They'll probably have a better opportunity to regulate the minutes against Sacramento, just make sure you get this win.
The tip is at 7pm. Game thread will be up in the late afternoon. The early line was Sixers -4.5. What do you think?