When the Pistons made the bold move of trading Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets I don't think the plan was ever to compete for a title this season. Sure, they got a great player, albeit a great player on the decline, but in no way did AI's game fit into their own. The move was about the future. Fortunately, the Sixers are playing the Pistons in the present.
The old Pistons started the season on a 4-0 tear, they were outscoring their opponents by nearly 10 points per game (104.5 to 94.75). The Pistons + AI aren't doing so hot. They're 7-6 since the trade and they're being outscored 95.6 to 93.7. It's not hard to figure out why.
The old Pistons team, the one that took the Sixers down in six games last Spring in the first round of the playoffs were excellent at two things, defending and playing a balanced half-court offense. Allen Iverson may be a great player, an easy Hall of Famer, one of the fifty best to ever play the game and honestly one of my favorite players of all time. But he is neither a good defender nor a catalyst for solid team play in the half court. In fact, his style of play couldn't possibly clash more with a system than the one that Detroit's been running since their championship.
This team lacks an identity right now, and much like the Sixers, they're going to have to figure it out on the fly. After the jump we'll take a look at how I believe the Sixers should attack the Pistons, and attack is precisely the word to use to describe the gameplan.
The offensive game plan is very simple. When Iverson is guarding either Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala or Willie Green, the offense runs through his man. Each one of those Sixers can dominate AI on the blocks, they can overpower him, back him down and shoot over him. How many times did we see Mark Jackson abuse AI when he was in Philly? Well, now it's our turn to be on the other side of it.
When they're going to work on Iverson, the rest of the team can't stand around with their hands on their hips. They need to be cutting without the ball. In Miller and Iguodala you have two very good passers, they're going to have a clear line of site, cut to the hoop, look for easy opportunities, especially in that second or two when the double is coming but hasn't gotten there yet. Doubling also opens up the glass for offensive rebounds. Sammy, Speights and Thad need to be crashing the boards.
One other note. The Pistons aren't capable of playing the type of defense they did last year on Andre Iguodala, due to personnel, and also with Iguodala starting at the two and Thad at the three, the Pistons will have to make a choice. They can drape Tayshaun Prince all over Iggy, and give Thad a huge size mismatch over Rip Hamilton. Or they can let Iguodala overpower Rip. Either way, that's another advantage for the Sixers.
I want to see the Sixers attacking these mismatches repeatedly throughout the game. Elton Brand is out. There is no one else in the front court who warrants having more than a couple of plays called for him. You have two advantages, go to them early and often.
On defense, though, we've got some problems. My main concern is the pick and roll with Iverson and Wallace. Actually, it's more of a concern with the pick and pop. The Sixers have shown zero ability to disrupt the play the entire season and I don't think having Sammy show over the top is a sound strategy with a guy like Wallace. If he leaves Wallace to show on Iverson, Wallace will eat us alive from three. If he doesn't leave and Miller tries to fight over the screen, Iverson will turn the corner and probably get to the line, at least. I think the best way to handle this play against the Pistons is to go under the screen. Iverson is shooting 40% from the floor and only 32% from three. Make him beat you with jumpers. Obviously, he's more than capable of doing that, but I'd much rather see him knocking down 20-footers all night thatn driving the lane and wearing out a path to the charity stripe.
Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are what they are. Expect to see Iguodala run through screens all night (unless Mo puts Miller on Rip, which is a possibility). Prince picks and chooses his spots. When the Piston bench comes in you have to watch out for Rodney Stuckey on the drive, he's a strong kid with no jumper. Again, go under the high screens. He'll go to the rim and get to the line if you don't stay in front of him. He's got no three-point shot, he's 2/7 on the season from downtown.
Jason Maxiell seems to get the Pistons fans all riled up, much more than the Pistons' coach, apparently. He's only averaging 17 minutes a game and Kwame Brown has been starting over him. Amir Johnson is another enigma off the bench. From the game logs, it looks like the Pistons' new coach is having trouble with his rotations at center and PF.
Losing Billups gutted this team, but they're still very dangerous. They're an excellent three-point shooting team, with Tayshaun, Wallace, Walter Hermann and Aaron Aflalo all shooting better than 40% (As a team they're shooting 39%). This has been a bugaboo for the Sixers all season long.
I think Mo will allow Sammy to deal with Wallace one-on-one in the post, as he did in the playoffs last season. This should help the rest of the team stick with their guys on the perimeter. Doubles on the pick-and-roll are my main concern.
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