For the second time in three days, the Sixers are underdogs playing sub-.500 teams on the road. Chicago's record isn't really a good indication of the type of basketball they've been playing since the trade deadline, though. In fact, they've gone 12-1 at home since then, so being six point dogs seems more logical than insulting. After the jump: Stats, Keys, Discussion.
Look at the stats, then throw them away. This is not that Bulls team, blah, blah, blah. I'm sick of talking about how good these teams are playing, or how much they have to play for. The Sixers need this win. They need any win they can get at this point. They lead the season series 2-1, with the first win coming in Chicago and the second at the Spectrum, in dramatic fashion. The win at the Spectrum was really a statistical anomaly. The Sixers attempted only 3 three-points the entire game, they only got to the line 14 times and they still scored 104 points.
Of course, 31 of those points came from Thad, and yes, they're really going to miss him tonight. There are several things I think we need to keep track of heading into the game, here they are in bullet form.
- Miller guarding Rose is a mismatch, but is it more of a mismatch than Rose guarding Miller on the other end? The last time they met, Miller was quietly dominant with 13 points, 13 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals. Rose led the Bulls with 19 FGA, and 20 points, but he didn't go to the line a single time. Advantage Miller. The game before, the roles were somewhat reversed, with Miller putting up 26 shots for his 28 points, while Rose needed only 19 shots for 24. In that game, the Sixers scored 103 points, despie shooting only 39% from the floor and hitting only 2 threes. In the first meeting, Rose made the highlight reels with a nice crossover on Miller, but Miller played a much more efficient game than Rose, again. 15 points, 10 assists, 3 steals and zero turnover. Overall, I'd say Miller has outplayed Rose in the series and if he's smart tonight, he'll make it three out of four.
- Willie on Gordon - This is a rare game where I believe Green will start on the opposing shooting guard, rather than the point guard. I'm actually far more concerned with his defense against Gordon than I am with Miller on Rose. We've all heard the chatter about Willie's on-the-ball defense, personally, I think it's over-rated and his work on-the-ball only looks good in comparison to what he does when he's not guarding the ball. More than any other perimeter player, he loses his man off screens, loses track of his man and just generally gets beat by his man moving without the ball. I'm crossing my fingers that Gordon doesn't shake free for too many threes in this one. If Willie can play like he did in the third quarter at Charlotte, he may be able to match Gordon's scoring for a stretch, which would be a big help.
- A strength advantage - I always felt that John Salmons was a little soft when he was with the Sixers, and while he's made a ton of strides offensively, I still feel like he isn't quite up to the task defensively at the three. He definitely doesn't have the size or the strength to keep Iguodala from doing whatever he wants to do on the offensive end, and there really isn't much help coming off the bench at the three either. With the off day, the national coverage (Iggy sat down with Craig Seger's suit earlier today for an interview which will be aired during the game tonight), I'm expecting big things from Iguodala tonight. In fact, I'll be disappointed if he doesn't assert himself and take advantage of this mismatch.
- Which Sam will show up? This is a tired question to ask, but it's relevant because the motivated Sam was on full display the last time these teams met. He was able to avoid foul trouble and dominated the paint throughout the night. His 19 boards and 4 blocks absolutely controlled the paint. He was on the floor for 35 minutes. In the other two games, he managed only 26 minutes and 7 rebounds total.
I feel like I could go on and on with the keys for this one, but let's leave it at this. The Sixers need a win tonight. Maybe they don't realize it, the certainly haven't played the past two games like the must-wins that they were, but it's a fact. A win tonight, and they're tied for fifth. A loss and I don't think the sixth seed is even a guarantee anymore.
The tip is at 8pm, on TNT.