The 18-8 Philadelphia 76ers will be looking to avenge a recent loss to the San Antonio Spurs as they face off against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the 15-8 Los Clippers tonight. Like the Sixers, the Clippers are also coming off a loss, to the Cleveland Cavilers, on Wednesday night. Tonight's game represents the fourth of a seven-game road trip for the Clippers. For the Sixers, this the seventh of a season-defining eight-game stretch, in which they're 4-2 thus far.
Jrue Holiday and the Sixers were manhandled by Tony Parker in their Wednesday night loss, and it won't get any easier when the best point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul, enters the Wells Fargo Cenger. After being traded to the Lakers during the off-season, then sent back to the Hornets, only to be traded to the Clippers a few days later, Paul is having an unbelievable season and, along with Blake Griffin, has turned the perpetual losers, the LA Clippers, into a first place team and serious title contender.
CP3 ranks third overall in PER, fourth among PGs in true shooting percentage, third overall in assist rate, third overall in steal percentage and third among qualified players in win shares per 48. He also leads the league in assist:turnover ratio at 4:3:1. Any way you slice it, Paul is the best point guard in the league and neck-and-neck with LeBron as frontrunner for MVP. Jrue Holiday and the Sixers D are going to have their handful tonight, especially after their abysmal showing against Tony Parker.
For the Clippers, Chauncey Billups is out for the season with an Achillies injury and Eric Bledsoe is questionable with a knee injury. For the Sixers, Spencer Hawes will probably miss the game with an Achillies injury of his own.
The Clippers rank in the top 10 in: assist rate (8th), turnover rate (5th), effective field goal percentage (4th), true shooting percentage (6th) and offensive efficiency (5th). They rank in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency (24th) and defensive rebounding (21st).
The Sixers first-ranked defense will need to be on point tonight, because Chris Paul executes the Clippers' offensive almost flawlessly. Luckily, the Clippers are a relatively weak defensive team. They also have the second worst scoring bench in the league, behind the Lakers, and they just lost their second-leading bench scorer when Foye replaced the injured Billups in the starting lineup. Advantage: Night Shift
Another stat to keep an eye on is free throw rate. As Mike pointed out earlier this week, the Sixers are historically bad. The Clippers are seventh in the league in FTR, but allow the third highest FTR amongst opponents. This is a great time for the Sixers to get healthy at the line. The Clippers allow a lot of free points, so the Sixers need to take advantage.
Derrick Favors, Gasol and Bynum, Kris Humphries, Duncan and Spliiter – the Sixers have been used and abused by big men all season long. The Clippers' front line of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, newly-signed Kenyon Martin and former fan favorite, Reggie Evans, present a lethal combination of size, hustle, talent, athleticism and rebounding.
Rookies Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen were blatantly exposed by the Spurs and Hawes won't suit up tonight. It may be in the Sixers best interest to play Brand at center and Thad at the four, to try and counter the Clippers' size with speed, if Vucevic and Allen perform anything like they did against San Antonio.
I haven't watched too many Clippers games this season and they seem to be a difficult team to get a read on. They're 10-3 at home and 5-5 on the road. They're still adjusting to Paul and vice versa. They recently had an impressive four-game winning streak with consecutive wins over the Nuggets (in Denver), the Thunder (blowout) and in Utah against the Jazz, but they just dropped one to the Cavs. Nonetheless, the Clippers are a talented bunch and I'm kinda surprised they're not better defensively or on the defensive glass. After witnessing what Parker and Splitter did to the Sixers less than 48 hours ago, I cringe at the thought of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin running pick n' rolls.
Hopefully the huge discrepancy in the teams' benches, paired with the Billups injury, the Clippers' below average defense and the fatigue involved with the middle game during a seven-game roadie pave the way for a Sixers win.