David vs. Goliath. I'm sure that's the last time you'll hear that phrase in relation to this series. This post will kick off our preview series. We'll go position-by-position, then talk about the head coach before my prediction lands some time on Saturday morning in advance of game one. Keep reading for the PG battle.
The matchup of starting PGs is one the Sixers absolutely, positively must win if they're going to have any chance in this series. Jrue is clearly the better player, but Bibby has hurt the Sixers in the past, and he has a very real opportunity to hurt them in this series as well. I'm assuming Collins will start the series with Jrue on Bibby and Meeks on Wade, which means Jrue's on-the-ball defense isn't going to be put to the test. Instead, he's going to need to focus on never losing track of his man. Wade and LeBron will penetrate looking to score first, but if the rest of the defense does its job, they will both kick out to shooters. Bibby's only role on the Heat is to stand out beyond the three-point line and drain wide-open looks. He shot 44% from deep on the year and over 45% since joining Miami. Don't lose contact with him, don't go under screens and always chase him off the three-point line.
On the offensive end, Jrue needs to physically dominate Bibby to the point where Spoelstra is forced to make a defensive adjustment. Jrue can attack Bibby pretty much any way he wants: in the post, off the dribble, in the pick-and-roll. Bibby is a terrible defender, he's got the rare combination of being slow and weak in his advanced age and Jrue needs to punish him at every opportunity. If he can show not only the ability to dominate Bibby, but the willingness as well, Spoelstra will probably have to shift Wade onto Jrue whenever Bibby is on the floor. This is a win for the Sixers in that you can run Wade through pick-and-rolls, you can maybe put a couple of fouls on him, and most importantly, you can make it so that he can't take a breath when he's on the floor. Defending on-the-ball is tiresome and anything you can do to take Wade's legs away from him is a huge, huge advantage.
The backups: Chalmers has disappointed since his surprising rookie year, and I don't think Miami has a whole lot of trust in him at this point. When he's in the game, I'd pressure him. He's turnover-prone and not much of a driving threat. See if you can get him to cough the ball up. He's a league-average three-point shooter and certainly no shy about shooting from deep. Like pretty much everyone on the Heat not named LeBron, Dwyane or Chris, his job is to stand around on offense and wait for an opportunity to fall in his lap. I'll be surprised if Chalmers has a dramatic impact on this series, hopefully his butterfingers will wind up helping the Sixers out. Defensively, he's pretty good at forcing turnovers, so be careful with the ball.
Let's just assume Lou will be at or near full strength for the series, mostly because he really needs to be for the Sixers to have a chance. Lou has two roles: 1) Score points, 2) Bail the offense out when it stalls in the half court, and score more points. Neither Chalmers nor Bibby can keep up with Lou, he needs to avoid settling for jumpers and do his best to get into the paint and get to the line. His explosive scoring could go a long way to erasing the huge deficit between the starting lineups when he gets in there against Miami's bench.
What needs to happen: I'm going to eschew the advanced stats in these predictions for the simplest metric possible. Scoring. The Sixers need to get 30 points or more out of Lou and Jrue combined, and they need to hold Bibby and Chalmers to 15 or less. A 15-point swing in this matchup is going to be needed due to matchups elsewhere. Keep an eye on that benchmark as you watch the game.
Let's hear what you think about this matchup in the comments. Shooting guards are up next, check back later tonight.
Programming note: I think we're going to postpone SixersBeat for a couple of days and do a live show immediately after game two on Monday night.