There is one coach in this league who I fear, now that Jeff Van Gundy is in the announcer's booth. That man is none other than Larry Brown (AKA, The Rat, frequently in our comments section.) I don't fear Phil Jackson, I don't fear Jerry Sloan, I fear their players maybe, but not the coaches themselves. Larry Brown, though, is a guy who I think could probably take a group of five stiffs and get them to put up a decent fight. If the Sixers are going to win tonight against the Bobcats, they're probably going to have to win ugly.
We're all extremely familiar with Larry's brand of basketball. Tough defense, squeezing points out of teams with limited offensive ability. Slow the pace down. He isn't reinventing the wheel in Charlotte, in fact, if you ask him, they'd be in the playoffs if he'd had his current roster the entire season. Looking at how they've played recently, that's a tough point to argue against.
From a pure statistical point of view, the Bobcats have a tremendous weakness the Sixers should really look to exploit. Charlotte averages 88.3 possessions per game, which is the fourth-slowest pace. They also average 15.6 turnovers per game. This equates to the second-worst turnover rate in the league. When you're slowing the game down like Brown loves to do, giving away possessions can be costly. Against the Sixers, turnovers equal easy points. Keep an eye on this tonight.
This game will feature some very interesting matchups. Iguodala vs. Gerald Wallace is obviously foremost among them. Both players would do well to force the other to beat him with jumpers. I don't think either will be particularly successful. A matchup I'm really looking forward to is Thad vs. Diaw. This is the first smallish PF Thad has faced in some time, I'm wondering if he'll take Diaw down to the blocks.
The Cats are bad on offense, very bad, but they do have three-point weapons in Vlad Radmanovic (37.9%), D.J. Augustin (43.3%) and Raja Bell (40%). If the Sixers over-help on Wallace drives, those guys could cause a ton of problems on the perimeter.
Down low, Emeka Okafor isn't a huge factor in the post, but he's a monster on the offensive glass. Sammy, Theo and Speights need to keep a body on him at all times. Also beware dump offs to Okafor when Sammy comes to help out on the driver.
Force turnovers, clean the glass. Those are my keys for the game.
The tip is at 7pm. I'll be right here, so join me in the comments.
Also, if you're interested in coming to the game with me and a couple of readers for free on Tuesday, drop me a line.
* Extra credit reading from True Hoop. They have a list of player efficiency at the end of quarters, check it out. The big list is shots or actions in the final 4 seconds of a quarter. The small list at the end is the final 3 seconds of a quarter. A certain someone made both lists, but you already know who that is. Check out #6 on the big list though. The Sixers get a ton of points at the end of quarters, by the way.