Typically, I'd be pretty excited for tonight's game. We've talked ad nauseum about how the Sixers ugly/risky style of play can work in their favor against clearly superior teams. Usually, Andre Iguodala gets up for tough matchups, like facing LeBron James. And in the LBJ era, the Sixers actually haven't done that bad of a job against Cleveland. Unfortunately, after what I've seen in the past three games, none of that really matters. Stats, keys and in-game discussion after the jump.
I'd like to start this portion of the pregame with a quote from Coach Tony DiLeo about tonight's game: "That will be a test for us, especially with us coming off a back-to-back."
A test, huh? Like, you've been playing so unbelievably well that the Cavs provide an opportunity to test if you're really a contender? Or a test to see if your team can possibly play any worse? How about a test to see if your team will actually show up?
Alright, I think I've gotten all the bitterness out of my system. Time to look on the bright side. At least we're guaranteed to see one team who cares about winning on the basketball court tonight, and a good one at that. The question is, how motivated will the Sixers be to make a game out of it?
News today seems to indicate that it's possible Thad could be back for the final game of the regular season, but it's more likely he'll make his return for the first game of the playoffs. So, are the Sixers just happy to be going into the playoffs? Do they care about seeding at all? Is there a feeling in that locker room that they can't compete with their depleted roster? All very important questions and I think it's imperative that they begin to answer in the affirmative tonight.
Even if this Sixers team puts forth its best effort tonight, odds are they're going to lose, and they're going to lose badly. Cleveland is a far superior team. Cleveland has the best record on the planet. Cleveland has the best player on the planet. Cleveland still has something concrete to play for. I'm fully prepared for a loss, so I'm going to spend the game looking for the little things. Rotations, loose balls, hustle plays. Those things don't have anything to do with talent, they have everything to do with heart and desire, and that's what I believe has been sorely lacking over the past three games.
If you're looking for keys in regards to winning and losing, I'm going to say the three point line will be the key. LeBron James puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on a defense, if the Sixers are willing to let Iguodala handle him one on one, I think they have a much better chance than if they start doubling off Mo Williams, Delonte West and Boobie Gibson. Once the doubles start coming, the rotations become key and we all know how that's worked out in the past.
Ilgauskus is going to cause problems with his range, Varejao is going to be drawing charges around the hoop and crashing the offensive glass and Joe Smith is going to be hitting mid-range jumpers. There isn't a whole lot the Sixers bigs will be able to do to nullify that part of Cleveland's game. Just stick with those shooters behind the three-point line and take your chances with the rest. That would be my game plan.
The tip is at 7pm, I'll be here so join me in the comments.