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Sixers Must Handle Bigs

The Sixers will go for their fourth straight win tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies. When I look at the matchup, the thing that jumps out at me is the size up front and how the Sixers will match up with it. Elton Brand and whoever's manning the five have their work cut out for them.

Zach Randolph has morphed his "push for an extension" last season into a solid "contract year" performance this season. He's never been a terribly efficient scorer, but he gets a bunch of shots up to keep that PPG number at or around the magical 20ppg line. What's been most impressive about Randolph, though, has been his rebounding. He's averaging 13+ per game, grabbing a gaudy 27% of available defensive boards and a league-leading 14.7% of available offensive boards. Elton Brand's main responsibility on the defensive end is going to be keeping a body on Randolph to stop him from creating extra possessions with o-boards.

Randolph can be defended. He tends to fall in love with his jumper and if you can convince him to stay outside of the lane, he's really not effective at all (10-15 feet: 34.8%, 16-23 feet: 37%, 3pt: 13%). Encourage him to be a jump shooter and you've won on the defensive end. I'm sure we're going to wind up seeing Thad on him at some point, which is a great matchup for the Sixers on the offensive end, and probably an equally great matchup for the Griz on the other end.

Marc Gasol has actually been a relative disappointment in his contract year, but he's a skilled big body who will undoubtedly give Spencer Hawes fits on the inside. Gasol's rebounding has taken a hit and he's turning the ball over too much, but he's deadly efficient. Ultimately, I think this game is going to come down to how well the Sixers are able to handle Randolph and Gasol. I'm actually pretty confident Doug Collins will have a strong game plan drawn up to at least control these two guys, though. Give him a day off and he's been very good at devising ways to make teams go away from their offensive strengths.

Rudy Gay is really Memphis' only perimeter threat. Iguodala should be glued to him all night, so we'll see if Gay can hit his season average (20.6 ppg) with Iguodala draped all over him. Gay is a sub-par rebounder and terrible playmaker at his position. I'm expecting Iguodala's intense pressure to force Gay into a bunch of bad shots and/or turnovers.

Jrue has a size and strength advantage over Mike Conley at the point. Memphis' bench is underwhelming, especially with OJ Mayo suspended for the next 10 games. I'm expecting a huge scoring advantage from Philly's bench, as usual.

Prediction: PHI 97, MEM 90

The tip is at 7pm, game thread will be up 90 minutes prior. The Knicks won last night, so the Sixers remain in the seventh slot, four games behind NY for sixth, a half game ahead of CHA for 8th, and two games ahead of MIL for 9th.