The Sixers will begin their toughest stretch of the year tonight in Dallas. Jrue is apparently listed as a game-time decision, but I'm going in certain he won't play. Collins said a few more days on Sunday, and no one comes back earlier than expected for this team...ever. So it's Turner's show to run for one more game, at least.
Prior to writing a preview for a game, I always check out the opposing team's page on basketball-reference.com
to see how they're playing, who's been starting, who's playing well, what to look out for. This is the second time this season I've checking on the Mavs, and the second time I've said to myself, "This team is just terrible."
This team is starting Derek Fisher and Dahntay Jones. Derek Fisher. And. Dahntay Jones. How is that even possible? They've won 11 games, and basically been kept afloat by O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman outperforming their career numbers by a country mile. The Mavs have a bunch of lead-footed veterans coming off the bench, highlighted by Elton Brand and Vince Carter. Darren Collison also comes off the bench. I'd say the bench edge goes to Dallas, especially because Brand will probably have another great game against the Sixers' frontcourt.
I'm assuming Jones and Vince Carter will split time guarding Turner, with Fisher left to handle Jason Richardson. That should put Shawn Marion on Thad, Kaman on Kwame and Mayo on Nick Young. No real mismatches there to take advantage of, unless you can somehow switch Fisher onto Turner, which you can maybe accomplish by pushing the ball up the floor and making Dallas matchup quickly. If/when they get that matchup, Turner can't hesitate, has to attack it immediately, and keep his head up, looking for shooters if the double comes.
In the half court, Thad needs to adjust his game a bit. He isn't playing against a slower player tonight, but he is playing against a guy who he has a strength advantage over. Instead of getting the ball and facing up for the drive, they need to try to get him the ball with his back to the basket, closer to the hoop. From that position, he can get his lefty hook off over Marion. When Brand comes off the bench, that's when Thad should use his dribble to attack.
The key to this game is going to be the free throw line. The Mavs are old, slow and willing to foul to stop easy looks at the hoop. The last time the teams met, the Sixers went to the line 32 times. If they're aggressive tonight, they should be able to repeat that number and score a bunch of easy points. If they're settling for jumpers, it's going to be a long night.
The tip is at 8:30pm. Use this as your game thread. Cross your fingers that Jrue's back ahead of schedule.