Either cooler heads have prevailed or maybe the difference between the sixth and seventh seed really doesn't matter all that much. Whatever the ultimate reason, Andre Iguodala will sit out tonight's game vs. the Magic to rest his ailing knee. My take: Get him as much rest as possible, so long as he isn't rusty for game one of the playoffs.
Iguodala's absence will thrust Evan Turner into the starting lineup, and should guarantee him 30+ minutes (if he can handle it). Turner has an interesting matchup on the defensive end. Hedo doesn't have the top-end speed to cause much of a problem off the dribble, but he's got good size. I'm really interested in seeing how the Sixers handle the Hedo/Dwight pick-and-roll, which I believe is their most dangerous offense.
On the offensive end, Turner should be able to get by Hedo pretty easily, but I don't have a ton of confidence he'll be able to finish at the rim with Dwight Howard in the paint. It's going to take a whole lot of guile to get shots up when you play below the rim against Howard. This goes for Jrue as well. They both need to try to get into Howard's body prior to putting the shot up, don't give Howard air space to close and get the ball out of the air. Easier said than done, obviously.
Assuming the Sixers utilize the same strategy against Howard (foul him, hard, every time he touches the ball in the paint), this game is going to come down to the shooting performance of the Sixers starting back court. Jrue and Jodie have been miserable on their jumpers for the past couple of games, they beat the Knicks easily if either of those guys is even close to their season averages on what weren't really difficult attempts. They also beat Miami if Jrue was himself. Tonight, they've got a bunch of poor defenders on the perimeter, and a big size advantage for Jrue over Jameer. If they can hit their shots, I like the Sixers chances even without Iguodala.
Howard on Brand is a terrible matchup for the Sixers on the offensive end, but Orlando doesn't have anyone who can even remotely check Thad when he gets in there. I'm wondering if the hedgehog will go small against the Sixers, hoping Hedo can expose Thad on the defensive end with his perimeter game if they're matched up at the four. Bass doesn't have a chance against Thad defensively, and on the offensive end he doesn't really take advantage of his bulk. He's content to shoot 18-footers, which certainly won't kill you. Also keep an eye on Thad vs. Ryan Anderson. Legitimate stretch fours give Thad fits, he tends to lose track of them. Ultimately, I'm expecting Thad to win whatever matchup he has. His explosive scoring and dynamic energy has become enough of a weapon to overcome any disadvantage on the defensive end.
Prediction: PHI 95, ORL 100. They have a chance to win this game, but Iguodala and Lou will be missed. Full strength, I like the Sixers odds against this team.
One other interesting wrinkle. Without Iguodala and Lou, there are minutes that need to be filled. Who gets the nod first, Antonio Daniels or Nocioni?
The tip is at 7pm. Game thread will land 90 minutes prior.