If you're looking for excuses, it won't be hard to find one. The Sixers are coming off an emotional win. Their two best players logged 45 minutes of heavy action yesterday. Thad Young is still out. Samuel Dalembert's calf still seems to be bothering him. Andre Miller's middle finger got dinged up again late in the game. Pick one or two from that list and it could excuse a loss to the Nets today. Unfortunately, there's a battle going on and to be honest, there is absolutely no acceptable excuse in the world for being swept 4-0 by the New Jersey Nets.
Let's start by saying Tony DiLeo absolutely made the right call yesterday in extending Iguodala and Miller's minutes. At this point of the season, you cannot take a single game for granted. You can't sacrifice today for tomorrow. It's going to be a dogfight to finish in 5th place. He saw an opportunity to get the win yesterday, and he took it. Now he needs to come into tonight's game with the same mentality.
Tonight, it's going to be up to his team to take some of the burden off him. They can come out flat, let New Jersey keep the game close, or even fall behind to the Nets, and they can force DiLeo to run up heavy minutes for the Andres, or they can realize that the Nets have nothing left to play for, they just played a tough game on the road last night, and had to travel further than the Sixers to play this one, and they can put them away early.
I have a couple of simple keys for tonight's game. Samuel Dalembert needs to wake up. In the Sixers' second loss to the Nets, Lopez tore them apart on the offensive glass. Sammy needs to be in the game physically, by avoiding foul problems and he needs to be in the game mentally by dominating the offensive glass. We can't see him for five minutes in the first until he picks up his second foul, then five minutes in the third until he picks up his fourth.
The second key is to run, run, run and run some more. We're talking about a Vince Carter team, with nothing left to play for. Do you really think he's going to be hustling back on defense? In the half court, go to the hoop. Get Lopez in foul trouble. Get to the line. In a nutshell, don't let up.
The Sixers will have a challenge at the PF, not because Ryan Anderson is particularly talented, but because he's a good three-point shooter. Neither Evans nor Speights is adept at marking his man out to the three-point line, so if Anderson is hurting the Sixers early, I'd go with Donyell for big second-quarter minutes at the four. He's probably the least athletic four on the roster, but he understands where he needs to be on defense and he can at least keep a hand in Anderson's face.
I don't know how much Miller and Iguodala can possibly have left in the tank after yesterday's game. I really don't want to find out, either. If this game is close heading into the final 6 minutes, anything can happen. We don't want to be in that situation.
The tip is at 7:30pm, I'll be right here, so join me in the comments.