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Playoff Previews: The SFs

It's kind of tough when you go to breakdown the matchups and you realize your best player is pretty much going to be functioning in a damage control capacity in a playoff series, but that's where we stand at small forward. Oh, and he's also going to be taking on the toughest cover in the league with a bum wheel. Andre Iguodala vs. LeBron James, how will it play out?

The Numbers


When Iguodala is at the top of his game, he's probably one of the most effective defenders on LeBron. He's got the quickness, length, strength and skills to counter most of what LeBron does on the offensive end. Of course, what are the odds he'll be at the top of his game after not playing for eight days? We're just going to have to cross our fingers.

Much like with Wade, the key to limiting LeBron's damage is to get him to settle for jumpers. There's another wrinkle to throw in here with LeBron, though. If you can get him into a one-on-one contest where he's isolating play after play, you're probably taking away the strongest part of his game, his passing. Maybe Iguodala can poke at his ego a little bit by limiting him and get LeBron into the mindset that he needs to prove he's the best in the game. The guy is the best in the game, and he can beat you so many different ways, but I'd prefer him isolating and taking contested 20-footers to using his dribble to get into the lane and get to the line. If you get him isolating on Iguodala, it's also easier to stick with the shooters on the perimeter. I'll also consider a pick-and-pop to Ilgauskus that winds up with a 20-foot look a win no matter what Z does with the shot.

At times, I expect this matchup to move around on the floor. LBJ will spend some time at the four, and Iguodala should move right along with him. We'll talk more about odd lineups when we get to the coaches, but I fully expect Iguodala to shadow LeBron all over the floor, and probably match him minute-for-minute, if he's physically able. Also don't be surprised if Iguodala is given help from time to time. I think against Miami, you have to dictate who's going to beat you, especially when either Wade or LeBron gets insanely hot. Get the ball out of their hands, rotate like crazy and hopefully the ball doesn't wind up in a shooter's hands for an open three.

On the offensive end, it's important that Iguodala isn't passive. He doesn't need to take a ton of shots, but he does need to be a big part of the attack. The more time he spends at point-forward, the more time LeBron has to be engaged on the perimeter defensively. This wears LBJ out, it keeps him further away from the hoop when shots go up making it harder for him to help out on the defensive boards, and it keeps him out of the lane for weak-side help defense.

An offensive key for Iguodala, and all the perimeter players, is going to be recognizing that Wade and LeBron are the best of the elite athletes in the league. Passes need extra room and extra zip on them to get around the perimeter. Lazy passes are going to turn into two points going the other way and both guys will block your shot if you go up weak for a layup. If you get the ball on the break, you sprint to the hoop and throw it down with two hands. Don't let LeBron chase you down from behind and block a weak layup. If you get Wade near the hoop, get into his body before you elevate, if you're a foot or two away from him, he's going to elevate in a split second and block the shot. Respect their athleticism when you're passing, attack their athleticism when you're finishing.

The Backups: Miami has a couple of specialists behind LBJ, and they'll see time at various positions both with and without LeBron on the floor. Mike Miller is pretty much just a shooter, but he's reluctant to shoot and he thinks he's much more than that. Chase him off the line, make him a driver and keep an eye on him on the glass as well. He's capable of grabbing double-digit rebounds for this team. James Jones is a shooter and literally nothing else. He only shoots threes. Period. End of story. And he shoots them very well.

It's tough to say who's going to get the backup minutes at the three for the Sixers. My guess would be Evan Turner, simply because Nocioni has no prayer of defending anyone, but Turner's also going to see time at the two. I think we could see some of Thad at the three on defense, mainly because I think that's a matchup Collins will go to when LBJ is playing the four for them. This could be a problem because it would probably put Thad on a shooter and he tends to lose his man on the perimeter.

What needs to happen: A 35-17 loss at this position certainly isn't out of the question, but I think we're looking at closer to 30-20. If they can keep in that range, they've got a shot.

Check back in a couple of hours for the power forwards preview.