The good news first: Deron Williams will not be available for the Jazz tonight. And now the bad news: Without Williams the Jazz officially go from a formidable opponent, if slightly weakened, who will bring out the best in the Sixers, to a perfect opportunity for the Sixers to underwhelm against a shaky squad.
Obviously, if you have to play Utah you'd rather face them with
Without Williams the focus of Utah's team shifts dramatically to the front court. Brewster is a good defender at the two, but has no range on his jumper. The Sixers need to worry about Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap. Millsap and Boozer will both do the bulk of their work in the paint, and Brand should be able to handle either on both ends of the floor (both are undersized for the PF position). It would be very, very silly to go small against Utah with either Boozer or Millsap on the floor. They'll kill you on the boards, and overpower you in the lane if they get a matchup with Thad or Kapono at the four. Keep an eye on this.
When the Sixers are playing big, priority number one is sticking with Okur as he drifts out to the three-point line. He's shooting 38.1% from downtown and leading the active roster for tonight's game with 8 makes. He and Kirilenko are the team's only legit threats from deep, this needs to be taken into account when the helping and over-helping gets revved up, which we know it will. Leave Brewer, leave Maynor, leave Wes Matthews, just stick to those two guys like glue. Please.
On offense, it's about time the Sixers took advantage of weak point-of-attack defense on the other team's part. Maynor can't hang with Lou, get into the lane and raise some hell. I'd love to say I'm looking forward to seeing Jrue match up with Maynor, but the odds are stacked against any playing time for the Sixers rook. Brewer is one of the few SGs in the league who can match Iguodala's size, but we still need AI9 to win the matchup, he's got the talent edge. The Jazz are amazingly thin at the guard positions, so make them work on both ends all night long. It should pay dividends down the stretch.
Defensively, you know the Jazz are going to try to throw the pick-and-roll at you all night long. Make Maynor prove himself, don't lose the big for open threes (if it's Okur) or wide-open jumpers from the foul line (if it's Boozer) or dives to the hoop (if it's Millsap).
On the bright side, this may is one of the few games where going in I'm not afraid that the three is going to kill the Sixers. Utah just doesn't have enough weapons. Honestly, I think the only thing that has the potential to kill us tonight is defensive rebounding. That should be the number one priority. Keep Millsap and Boozer off the glass, especially.
Key to the Game: Clean. The. Glass
If _______________ the Sixers will win: Elton Brand plays 32 minutes, plus. Mainly because this is a good matchup for Brand, and having him on the floor for heavy minutes will mean Jordan didn't try to get cute with small lineups. Plus, I don't think Elton will see this much time from Eddie Jordan again unless he's just having an unbelievable game.
This is your game thread, I'll be here with my clipboard for another schizophrenic wild ride on the Sixers train. Join me if you can.