For what I believe is the first time this season, the schedule will actually make a tough game a little bit easier for the Sixers later tonight. The Hawks played last night against the Magic, the Sixers had Thanksgiving off. The Sixers are also at home. It's a small advantage, maybe worth a point or two on the spread, but still, it's something and they're going to need any edge they can get their hands on against the Hawks.
Here's a quick look at the Sixers' advanced stats for the first 15 games:
OK, the first thing that jumped out at me from the stats was the offensive improvement over the past two games. Against Washington and Boston, they were extremely efficient on that end, unfortunately, it was coupled with atrocious defense, because they couldn't board against the Wizards and they sent Boston to the line an ungodly percentage of the time. The Celtics game was the first time this season they won the eFG battle, but lost the game.
As for tonight, Atlanta is a tough matchup. They offensive rebound very well, they don't turn the ball over, they're efficient scorers, they take care of their own defensive glass. Position-by-position, I'm not sure if the Sixers clearly win a single matchup, Joe Johnson vs. Andre Iguodala is the one I'd give the Philly the edge on, but I'm sure plenty of people would not. Josh Smith has stopped shooting threes, which has turned him in to a statistical beast on both ends of the floor.
Elton Brand is listed as a game-time decision, again, I expect the team to err on the side of caution, if they didn't come out and say he's better, I doubt he'll play. I believe Holiday is getting the start at the point again, here's an update from Marc Stein via Twitter (when he was poking around about if the Sixers were interested in Iverson):
The Sixers' immediate plan, I'm told, is more minutes for rookie guard Jrue HolidayThat's good news, as far as I'm concerned.
Here's one thing working in the Sixers favor, the Hawks really are not a good three-point shooting team. In fact, they're worse than the Sixers from three at 32.9%. Joe Johnson is shooting a dismal 32.3%, Bibby and Mo Evans are the only guys shooting above league average. Also, did any realize the Sixers currently have three guys shooting over 40% from three? Kapono is at 40.9%, Carney is at 40% and Jason Smith is shooting 47% from three. Impressive.
Jrue Watch: Tonight he's got Mike Bibby, who doesn't have the physical skills to do damage off the dribble against Jrue, but is a threat from three. I'd like to see Jrue pressure the hell out of Bibby out away from the basket, hopefully causing a couple turnovers but mainly to keep him from initiating their offense. The key is going to be how well Jrue sticks to Bibby when he's off the ball. Can't over-help and lose him on the perimeter. He's the only one who's shooting well enough to make you pay this season for the Hawks. On offense, Jrue should be able to get into the lane at will, and wreak havoc when he gets there. With a guy like Josh Smith roaming, he's going to be leaving his man to go for the block, Jrue needs to get in there suck the shotblocker to him, then dish to EB, SD, JS or TY for easy dunks. He should live in the lane tonight against either Bibby or Crawford, who is equally weak on the defensive end.
Key to The Game: Defensive boards, obviously.
If _______________ the Sixers will win: Iguodala can lock down Joe Johnson. He's their best offense in the half court, even if he's gotten off to a shaky shooting start, we need Iguodala's A-game on the defensive end.
This is your game thread, unfortunately, I'm going to have to watch the replay on League Pass broadband, so my wrap will land later tonight. Keep up the great work in my absence. Also, if anyone has a SlingBox, let me know if you're happy with it.