Elton Brand vs. Chris Bosh may just be the defining matchup of this series. It could easily swing either way, unfortunately for the Sixers, they can't settle for a wash at PF, they need a big. Luckily for the Sixers, Brand has big time help coming from the bench at PF.
The Sixers have one guy on their roster who has a spectacular playoff history, at least personally. Brand has only made the playoffs one time in his twelve seasons, but he was a complete stud when he took the Clippers to the second round five years ago. It's not realistic to expect Brand to average 25 pts, 10 boards, 4 assists and 2.5 blocks per game in this series, but he does at least have a history of rising to the occasion. And rising to the occasion is exactly what this team needs from him.
Chris Bosh has turned into something of an efficient joke in Miami. He's had some of his worst games (1/16 against the Bulls comes to mind) in the biggest situations and he's clearly a distant third in the team's mind as far as offensive options go. He's routinely out rebounded by not one, but two perimeter players on his own team, he doesn't block shots. He basically feasts off opportunities created by James and Wade, and that's fine. He signed on to be a third wheel in the LBJ/Wade lovefest, and that's exactly what he's become.
Brand needs to punish Bosh. He needs to be physical with him, he needs to out-work him, he needs to throw his spindly frame to the floor a couple times if CB gets the ball near the hoop, and he needs to attack him on the offense end. Get him in the post, put a shoulder into him and drive him into the first row. Make it very clear from the get-go that this series is going to be a war in the trenches. I expect Spoelstra will hide Bosh on the defensive end, and have him match up with Hawes. If this is the case, Brand needs to be hustling down the floor for easy hoops, because Dampier and Ilgauskus can't run a bit. They're going to be late and with some hustle, Brand can get down there early and get good position if not a clear layup. At worst, if Brand hustles it's going to suck Wade and/or LeBron into the lane to compensate for their slow centers, which opens up the option of an open three in late transition for Jodie or Jrue.
While Bosh may get a pass when the starting lineups are out there, he certainly won't when Miami goes small. Whenever Miami lines up Bosh at the five and LeBron at the four, the Sixers need to run their offense through Brand. Bosh can't handle him one-on-one and there's no size in there to really bother him with a double. Collins needs to attack that matchup mercilessly when the team is forced into the half court against small lineups, and I think he will.
Defensively, much like LBJ and Wade, you want to get Bosh to settle for jumpers. Unlike those guys, though, I think Bosh is much happier floating in the 18-foot area where there's little chance he'll break his nose again. Keep in contact with him, though, because he's pretty adept at hitting the elbow jumper.
The Backups: Thad vs. Juwon Howard. I'll take Thad. It goes without saying that the Sixers need production from Thad, but more than that, they need his energy. The need him to be the guy who's disrupting things on both ends of the court and flying down the floor at breakneck speed to create transition opportunities where none really exist. Bosh has no prayer of matching up with Thad. I have a feeling LeBron will take a turn on him, which works in our favor in that Thad can turn it into a track meet. LeBron's probably going to play 40-45 minutes in a close game, if he has to sprint back on defense for 20 of those minutes to keep up with Thad, it's going to take its toll.
What needs to happen: 35-20 in the Sixers favor. That's the goal. One of either Brand or Thad needs to be at or above 20, the other at or above 15. This position needs to be a big win to even things out at SG and SF and I think these guys are both capable of it.
The centers preview will land right around quitting time, then coaches late tonight. Also, check out the tag "Previews" below to see all the previews in one place. Your thoughts on the battle of the power forwards in the comments, as usual.