Extreme athleticism can beat elite size in the NBA. It's happened many times before, it's even happened in the playoffs. Typically, however, the smaller, quicker team uses their athletic advantage to spread the floor, create creases and then hit open threes. The Sixers simply don't have the shooters to make a system like that work against the Celtics tonight. Odds are, they're going to lose, and they're going to lose badly...again. But it's the preseason and as we've been reminded on a daily basis, wins and losses don't matter. What does matter is the process of this Sixers team figuring out how to use their strengths to attack superior teams, and force adjustments on their part.
Since they're playing Boston, there are a few things the Sixers can do to keep this one close so let's start there:
As a team, Boston is pretty old. Shaq, Garnett, Allen, Pierce and Jermaine O'Neal are all on the wrong side of thirty by varying degrees. Beyond their advanced years, they've all got a ton of NBA mileage on them. Get stops, get turnovers and run, that's the goal. If you can't beat Shaq down the floor, you've got serious problems.
Forgetting this particular game for a moment, the Sixers have a ton of work to do on themselves. The defense needs to be focused on pressuring the ball, and I mean pressuring it all the way up the court. Every extra second it takes the opponent to get the ball up the floor is one less second their bigs are going to have to push our small bigs around on the blocks.
Play the passing lanes and play them hard. Straight up defense pretty much means a solid scoring opportunity for the opposition. The defensive strength of this team lies exclusively on the perimeter, they need to trap and pressure at all times and the three smalls need to crash the boards to make up for the rebound deficiencies.
With the defensive personnel we're putting on the floor, the better teams in the league are going to have at least one mismatch down low, if you're doubling down to take that away, shooters will be open. It's absolutely worth the risk to gamble for steals and this starting lineup consists of five guys who are capable of making those plays. That's their strength, they need to play for it. I'm not sure Doug Collins really wants to be teaching this type of defense, but to me it absolutely seems like the best option.
On the offensive end, my main concern right now is the comfort level of Holiday, Turner and Iguodala. They need to be on the floor together as much as possible, they need to learn to play with each other and play off of each other. Maybe their roles develop organically, maybe it takes a ton of coaching from Collins to get them in the right spots. Either way, it's not going to happen if they aren't on the floor together, playing against the other team's first unit. For the time being, Turner will probably draw the weakest wing defender from the other team, so he should probably be getting the best looks. Play to that until teams make adjustments.
If you're in the Philly area, this game will be televised on CSN at 7pm. The matchup to watch is Jrue vs. Rondo. Jrue is having a rough preseason and Rondo will probably cause problems for him on both ends of the floor. The keys to Jrue's game are limiting his turnovers and keeping Rondo out of the lane. Every time you get Rondo to take a jumper, it's a defensive win whether it goes in or not, that should be Jrue's focus.