When the Sixers visited Miami back in early November, they got their doors blown off. Andre Iguodala had maybe the worst game of his career and the team as a whole had nearly as many turnovers (25) as made field goals (27).
It was a night to forget and a win tonight will go a long way toward erasing the memory of the early season struggles.
My mantra for the rest of the season is going to be "Forget about Elton Brand." We're going to have more than enough time to talk about EB over the summer. It sucks that he got hurt. It remains to be seen if he was a good signing or a bad signing. It's time to move on, for us and for the Sixers. That process begins tonight.
The focus of this season right now is threefold.
- Develop the young guys. Thad needs to refind what he lost from last season in his game. Speights needs minutes and he needs to learn to defend on this level. Lou needs to...well, Lou needs to stop sucking. Iguodala needs to keep evolving into a superstar.
- Get the best possible seed in the playoffs. The four seed should be the goal.
- Figure out where the offense is going to come from when Iguodala is double teamed. That's why the Sixers lost in the first round last season, pure and simple. It wasn't Detroit's low-post game. It wasn't their half-court offense. It wasn't the Sixers' reliance on the run. It was the Sixers inability to punish the Pistons for mercilessly doubling Iguodala and making him a non-factor.
Coming into tonight's game, Miami holds a two-game lead on the Sixers in the playoff race. Their point differential is identical, and they're really quite similar teams. Miami relies on Dwyane Wade to dominate the ball and the scoring. Their defense is predicated upon forcing turnovers. They're a decent rebounding team and they take care of the ball. They really aren't a good shooting team by any measure and they'll be without their best three-point shooter, Daequan Cook, for this one.
There's one key to this game for the Sixers, take care of the basketball. Wade, Marion and Chalmers are all excellent at jumping the passing lanes. Crisp passes on the exterior and liberal use of backdoor cuts should minimize their steals.
I'm really looking forward to seeing who guards Iguodala. My best guess is Shawn Marion, I think he's their best defender, but if Iguodala finds Beasley on him, he should have a field day. Ditto Wade. Beasley doesn't have the quickness, Wade doesn't have the size or strength. On the other side of the ball, don't be surprised to see Andre Miller spending a decent amount of time checking Wade.
Nothing about this team is going to be calm or settled over the next two weeks. There will be hundreds of stories written about Elton Brand. Andre Miller's name will be involved in every trade rumor. The Sixers players need to realize they can't control, or even influence any of that noise. The only thing under their control is the play on the court. Tonight's game is extremely important in the playoff race for both teams. I'd like to see a 48-minute effort.
Tip is at 7pm. I'll be here, join me for the in-game discussion if you're watching as well.