The Sixers annual Ice Capades road trip technically began with their head-scratching loss to the Wizards on Tuesday, but psychologically, it's always been all about the West Coast swing. The team opens this portion of the trip in Utah later tonight with the only thing looking worse than their play on the floor being the "chemistry" in the clubhouse which is quickly disintegrating. Preview and game thread after the jump.
Elton Brand expanded on his comments from the other day a little bit on Thursday, here's what he had to say:
"Everyone makes mistakes," he said, "so I just felt that certain guys were playing pretty good on the defensive end and weren't playing. That's all. That's just my opinion."The question is, was he talking about Speights playing over Dalembert or Lou playing over Jrue? The simple answer is there's no way to know, since the statement applies to both of them. The larger issue here is how Eddie Jordan chooses to react. He's had some puzzling comments about defense over the past couple of days. He was so angry with his team's effort in Tuesday night's game that he canceled practice Wednesday, which seems like an odd reaction to me. Typically, when coaches are pissed about something, they want their guys in the gym, and they want to hammer them until the problems are solved. Giving them a day off for a poor showing seems counterproductive. Although from my perspective, the less time they spend having Jordan's message pounded in their brains, the better.
As for tonight's game, the opponent is the Utah Jazz, who really delivered an ass whipping to the Sixers in the Wach back in mid-November. If you recall, the Jazz were extremely short handed for that game. Former-Jazz first rounder, Eric Maynor, made the first start of his career and essentially did whatever he wanted against Lou Williams' "defense." Tonight, the Jazz will have Deron Williams, one of the best points in the league, at their disposal. There's been no official word on the lineup yet, but I suppose Jordan will give the nominal start to Jrue Holiday.
Most likely, the starting back court will be Jrue and Lou, meaning Lou will be tasked with "guarding" either Williams or Ronny Brewer. Both are colossal mismatches. I mentioned Jrue would be the nominal starter above because unless he gets hot early and hits three or four jumpers, Eddie Jordan will undoubtedly make sure he sees the least amount of time among his regular guard rotation. It'll probably be Lou leading in minutes back there, with Willie trailing slightly behind. I firmly believe starting Jrue is something that's been forced on Jordan, so he does it to appease his bosses, then gets him the hell out of there so he can get his "offense" guys on the floor. Nevermind the fact that Jrue is the only guy who actively works to get the ball in the best offensive players' hands in prime scoring locations, that stuff is meaningless if you aren't hitting 20-footers.
Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver will both probably miss this game for the Jazz, which is very good news for the Sixers. Korver is their best shooter from distance, and Millsap can be a beast on the boards. Utah is a very poor three-point shooting team (33% on the season), however they did manage to hit 6/11 in that drubbing of the Sixers earlier this year. CJ Miles and Korver both missed that game, but Miles is back now and shooting well from deep recently.
I do believe Speights has a mismatch in this one, neither Okur nor Boozer will be able to handle him on the perimeter. Same goes for Thad, who can use his quickness to get to the hole. Iguodala should enjoy a similar advantage over Miles at the three. Brewer is a good defender, I expect them to match him up with Lou. Deron Williams will probably freelance a little bit unless Jrue gets off early.
Any potential mismatches the Sixers have on the offensive end are really meaningless in the grand scheme of things, though. They won't exploit them, because that's not what Eddie Jordan's system does. And even if they do score well against a good team, Utah is simply going to pick their defense apart.
Key to The Game: Epic hangovers for the entire Jazz roster.
If ____________ the Sixers will win: I've got nothing.
This is your game thread, I'll be here throughout so join me in watching what will hopefully one of Eddie Jordan's last games as the Sixers head coach.
Speaking of which, I'm making a prediction now. If the Sixers come back from this trip winless, Jordan is gone. There's no way Stefanski can continue to turn a blind eye if the team comes home with a 7-26 record. He may be gone if they win only one game, depending on who they beat. He still has his job, but it's on life support if they win two games. If they win three, we're collectively screwed.