The trip is over. The excuses are gone. The Sixers will play 13 of 15 on their home floor now, beginning tonight against the surging Brooklyn Nets. It's time for them to translate effort into wins if they're going to remain in the playoff hunt.
The Nets are 5-1 under PJ Carlesimo, with one really good win in there (at OKC), one expected loss (at SAS), and three somewhat uninspiring wins over terrible teams (SAC, CLE and WAS in double OT). Carlesimo seems to have learned from Avery Johnson's folly and gone big with his starting lineup. Instead of Kris Humprhies at the four, though, he's gone with Reggie Evans in his starting lineup. Evans is averaging 21 minutes/game and leading the league in both defensive rebounding rate and overall rebounding rate. He's also converting a higher percent of his field goal attempts, but barely shooting at all.
I'm no fan of Reggie Evans' game, but he's the type of guy who can (and probably will) own the Sixers weak front court. They don't handle energy or brute force very well. It's going to be important to walk the line between completely ignoring Evans in the Nets half-court offense (which they should) and somehow finding a way to put a body on him when shots go up, because he'll kill you on the offensive glass.
Anyway, Jrue needs to attack Deron Williams, get into the paint to score or dish. Which is pretty much what he needs to do every night considering no one else on this roster can create a decent shot for himself or anyone else. It would be nice if Thad could use his quickness advantage over Evans, but I suspect he'll be happy to clean up slop in transition and take jumpers in the half court. Turner scored 15 on 16 shots in their last meeting, something north of a point per shot would be much appreciated (and shocking). Ultimately, this game will probably come down to whether the Sixers "shooters" can hit their open looks and whether Brook Lopez is content to take 17 footers instead of pressing his extreme advantage on the inside against the likes of Spencer Hawes. The former, they've got a shot, the latter, probably not.
Keep an eye on Joe Johnson and CJ Watson from deep (their only two above-average shooters from distance this season), and Deron Williams is always capable, though he's hitting only 31% so far this year.
The tip is at 7pm. Use this as your game thread. I'll be watching on DVR and checking in later.