With Shelvin Mack in hand and a couple days of practice under their belts, the Sixers will look to right a wrong tonight at the WFC. Nine days ago, they laid down in Toronto and let the Raptors have their way with them. Tonight, they better stand up.
Richardson and Kwame are both listed as questionable for tonight's game. Richardson, for his knee. Kwame is listed as questionable for personal reasons. This is the second or third time I've seen personal listed as a reason for his unavailability, then nothing is said about it. I suppose it doesn't matter, since he doesn't get off the bench most of the time anyway. They could probably use him in this game, though, considering how easy things were for Ed Davis and Amir Johnson in their first meeting.
I don't want to spend too much time talking about their previous meeting except to use it as an example of why the New Orleans game left me very worried about this team. When they got back from the west coast, this team was tired. Tired and a little beaten down. They came home, lost to the Nets, then immediately headed back out on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. They were dead, and they certainly looked it on the floor. No energy at all, no effort...just lazy. When a team plays like that, you expect them to get killed, no matter who they're playing. Here's the thing that worries me. Against New Orleans, they didn't look like they lacked effort, or energy. They just looked like they lacked talent. Just plain overmatched when they were on the defensive end. There's a phenomenon in the NBA, when your opponent thinks you can't stop them, you can't stop them. This used to happen to Kyle Korver all the time. Korver was for the most part a terrible defender, but there were times where he'd really play solid defense. It didn't matter. The guy he was guarding just knew Korver couldn't stop him, so even if Korver forced him into a tough shot, it would drop. The Sixers are on the verge of becoming a team full of Kyle Korvers on the defensive end.
The problem obviously isn't that simple. There are plenty of examples of just piss poor defense. Turner couldn't stop his grandmother from getting by him on the dribble. The weak side "help" is laughable. But it is a systematic problem in that you give a team enough easy looks, the basket starts looking bigger and then they start hitting some harder shots. The Sixers need to find a way to get back to their defensive principles. Stop penetration, chase guys off the three-point line, encourage them to take long twos. In the pick-and-roll, unless Thad is the big, they need to go back to leaving Jrue on an island. Hawes and Lavoy should just back out of the situation, clog the lane and cut off that easy dive to the hoop. As for penetration from the wings, tonight I'd like to see Turner back off DeRozan and Landry Fields, see if you can entice them to take long twos.
The tip is at 7pm. Use this as your game thread. 12 games to go until the All Star break (and hopefully Bynum's return). 7-5 over that stretch. Too much to ask?