The Sixers have a big number chasing them tonight. A dozen losses in a row is nothing to sneeze at, when you hit a baker's dozen national people start paying attention. Unfortunately, they have a formidable foe standing between them and their ever-elusive sixth win of the season, the Houston Rockets. Brief preview/lengthy game thread after the jump.
I've probably seen three or four quarters of Rockets basketball this season. Two things struck me: First, they're severely under-manned and under-sized. Second, Trevor Ariza is getting a ton of hype, and undeservedly so. Ariza's numbers tell exactly the type of story you'd expect them to when he was removed from a perfect complimentary role in LA and given more minutes/responsibility in Houston. He's shooting under 40% from the floor, his 3-point percentage is below league-average (thought he hoists 6.7 bombs/game). His peripheral numbers aren't great either. He doesn't board, he doesn't dish, he does get steals though. For all the ink he's getting, you'd think he must be better than Andre Iguodala, but pick a comp
, any comp
and Iguodala beats Ariza's pants off.
Anyway, let's deal with the game at hand. Houston runs the read and react offense, which is sort of like the Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense, only it's effective. Without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, the most important piece of their offense, in my opinion, is Aaron Brooks. The slight guard gets wherever he wants on the floor and kicks out for open corner threes. Luckily, Houston doesn't have a whole lot of weapons on the perimeter. Only Brooks is a better-than-average shooter from distance.
Houston gets effecient offense from Luis Scola (and very good rebounding), coupled with super-efficient offense from Carl Landry. Two under-sized bigs who mesh nicely with their undersized center and defensive stopper Chuck Hayes. Ariza and Battier both defend very well on the perimeter as well. Houston is a tough matchup for the Sixers, increasingly tough when you think about who's going to stay in front of Brooks, who's going to keep their excellent offensive rebounders (Scola, Landry, Hayes and Pops all average more than 2.5 O-boards/36) and who's going to stick with their men when they leak to the corner for open threes off penetration?
The Sixers swept Houston last year, but as we're all far too painfully aware, this Sixers team is not the one we saw in 2008-2009. Personally, I'm expecting a loss. The highlight of the game for me will be the return of Jrue Holiday, assuming he can actually shoot with his right arm and Eddie Jordan doesn't DNPCD him.
Key to The Game:
It's either one or the other, so I'll go with defensive boards here.
If ______________ the Sixers will win:
More made threes than Houston.