Today's afternoon, ESPN affair holds great playoff implications for the Sixers. If they beat Detroit they'll stretch their lead over Miami to a half game. They'll claim the tiebreaker over the Pistons. Also, they'll put themselves one step closer to the playoff tiebreaker over the Miami Heat. The Sixers split their season series with Miami, so the next tiebreaker is conference record. The Heat come into the day at 25-22, the Sixers are 23-21. After the jump we'll break down today's game and have our in-game discussion.
Not a whole lot has changed, statistically, since these two teams last met a little over a week ago. Detroit is still one of the select few teams who shoot worse than the Sixers. They still take care of the ball, foul a whole lot and don't turn the ball over or force turnovers. They're still content to slow the pace down and spread the ball around.
My biggest concern heading into the game is how will the Sixers handle Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. Wallace is suspected to play after serving a one game suspension for accumulating too many technical fouls. If you remember the first game of the playoffs last season, Mo Cheeks decided to let Sammy play Sheed one-on-one. Sheed had a big game, but it threw the Pistsons' offense out of whack. I'm not sure the same approach would be advisable today, because the Pistons' offense is already out of whack. They may need to double Wallace in the post, and if they're going to do that, the double should come off of Rodney Stuckey and no one else. Force Stuckey to be the guy to knock down jumpers, don't let it be Hamilton or Prince.
Speaking of Prince, Andre Iguodala needs to do a better job on him. Prince was 8/11 for 21 points last Sunday and he had way too many open looks. Iguodala needs to lock him down. He won't force shots, he's not a particularly aggressive offensive player, just stay on him and use your strength to keep him from backing into the lane.
The guards are going to be a problem as well. Stuckey and Bynum are both quick and can get penetration. With Miller's looming calf injury, you'd like to be able to play him at the off guard, but that isn't an option against Detroit. Rip Hamilton spends the entire game running his man off screen after screen. You can't have Andre Miller chasing him. I'd probably play a good deal of zone if I was Coach DiLeo. If you do play a zone, though, you really have to be diligent in finding a man to box out, otherwise you're going to get killed on your defensive glass.
I expect to see the same starting lineup from the Sixers, and I'm hoping we see the same rotations off the bench. The Pistons will probably employ the zone from time to time, Donyell needs to see about 10 minutes of action today. The key stretches of the game, as far as I'm concerned, will be the beginning of the second quarter, and the end of the third/beginning of the fourth. The Sixers got a huge boost from their bench against the Bucks, that trend needs to continue.
The tip is at 3pm, the game is on ESPN. I'll be right here, so if you're watching at home, join me in the comments. Only 8 games left in the first season.