Some people are calling the two-point loss in San Antonio the beginning of the Sixers' turnaround. It would be a shame to see it brought to a screeching halt when the Spurs come to the Wach tonight.
It's time to temper expectations a little bit. After the jump we'll take a look at the stats and talk a little bit about what went right and what went wrong in that game 13 days ago.
The number that jumps out at me immediately is San Antonio's three-point percentage. 41% as a team! The defensive numbers are nothing special. They allow a decent eFG, they secure defensive rebounds and they don't foul much. They take care of the ball, but they don't force a lot of turnovers. The Spurs beat teams by forcing them into a half-court game (27th in the league in pace) and scoring much more efficiently in the half court than their opponents.
The styles of these two teams couldn't be more at odds. You'd think the keys to the game would be pretty easy to figure. If this game is played in the open floor, at a quick pace, the Sixers have the advantage. If it's a half-court game, the scales tip to San Antonio. Ironically, that's not how it played out in San Antonio.
The Sixers actually played San Antonio's game, for the most part, and nearly beat them at it. They shot 54.4% from the floor and dominated the boards. They took better care of the ball than the Spurs (12 turnover to 8). They got to the line 19 times to San Antonio's 14. They won every four factor battle except eFG, and their eFG was pretty damned good (.570). It was the three pointer that killed the Sixers, they lost that battle 15 to 4.
While a repeat of the final three quarters of their previous meeting would be great, what I'd like to see is a 48-minute concerted effort to make this old team run. Punish Tim Duncan every time he doesn't get down the floor. Make Tony Parker work to keep up with Miller in the open floor. Humiliate Bruce Bowen's old bones every time they bring him in to "stop" Iguodala.
The Spurs are coming into the Sixers' house, make them play the Sixers' game. My key to the game is going to be defensive philosophy. Against Portland, The Sixers focused on their exterior defense. It was nearly impossible for Portland to get an open look at a three. They need to do the same thing tonight, especially with Roger Mason, who's shooting an insane 47.5% from deep. The ability to play this type of defense is going to hinge on Dalembert (or Theo) being able to slow down Tim Duncan. If they're forced to double Duncan, there's really no good place for the double to come from, the Spurs just have too many shooters.
The tip is at 7pm, still no word on Elton Brand's status. If I get word, I'll pass it along here later today.
I'll be watching the game live, so stop by and join in the discussion. Six in a row, with a win over the Spurs added onto the streak would have to convert most of the non-believers, right?