Blazers vs. Sixers Preview: Chemistry Experiments

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Teams in vastly different places will face off tonight as I recall a comparison to the Sixers of olden days (or two years ago).

The Portland Trail Blazers' hot start reminds me of the Sixers from two years ago.

You remember that team, don't you? Long before the advent of the Andrew Bynum trade, His Swagness Nick Young, confetti, and paparazzi-filled press conferences at the Constitution Center, the Sixers were a mild-mannered team led by Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, and a weird cast of veterans and youngsters. Evan Turner, when I still had high hopes for him. Jodie Meeks started sometimes. Lou Williams was even there. It seems like so long ago, and yet it's really only been a year and a half since they fell in game 7 to the Boston Celtics in the East Semifinals.

That year, the Sixers started off strongly - advanced team measures (which include plus/minus, strength of schedule, etc.) rated them as one of, if not the best, if not THE best, teams in the league through a month and a half's worth of games. They did so by returning their top 8 or so players from the year before. Unlike much of their lockout-winded brethren, they had been in shape, knew the playbooks and defensive schemes, and played really well for about 30 games.

Of course, we know how that all ended. Collins wore on people, the team fell apart, and eventually the Sixers got lucky in getting to the second round of the playoffs before what could have been a more merciful put down from the Celtics.

Now, the Blazers haven't returned that many players. Their bench rotation is almost entirely new and they traded for an actual starting center (Robin Lopez, serviceable as always). But the core of the team - the Lillard-Matthews-Batum-Aldridge quartet - returned for a second consecutive year together. Those 4 players worked very well together last year, and with actual NBA talent around them should have been seen as a threat.

And they've been excellent. To draw on the Sixers comparison, those four seem to have a "continuity advantage" - the phrase current Grizzlies GM John Hollinger used to describe the Sixers smoking start in 2011-12. Similar to those Sixers, the Blazers run a motion-based offense predicated on moving the ball from one side of the court to the other and playing unselfish basketball. Find the open man, and let him do the damage.

With a year of familiarity with Terry Stotts' system, and one more year of development for the young guys, they've gone from a having a good-to-average offense to producing more points per possession than any other NBA team. Of course, these Blazers are much more talented (and much better coached) offensively than our old Sixers. They use their continuity advantage to generate and convert high value shots, along with a crapton of midrange launching from LaMarcus Aldridge.

And unlike the Sixers of yesteryear, they still have room for improvement. Stotts still puts too many minutes on the starters, and the bench is certainly capable of doing more than it has so far. Robin Lopez could use a little more time to get acclimated, and the Blazers installed a new defense over the summer which could stand to improve.

In other words: the Blazers are really good, and it's probably not a fluke. They'll bring their entertaining motion offense and chemistry to the Wells Fargo Center tonight, to face a team that likely has little future together. The Sixers will likely endure more player movement chaos over the next three months.

For a team that's already featuring 3 rotation players who saw little or no training camp time, the Sixers play remarkably well together. That's a credit to Coach Brown and the rest of the staff. But you still see the mistakes that arise either due to youth or a lack of familiarity with the schemes. You can hear the coach discuss having to take the offense slow with the young guys.

This isn't going to change for a while. But once it does, hopefully we'll be as entertaining as the Blazers are. Even in tank mode, with the Sixers' pacing and the Blazers' spacing, this should be a fun one. /Frazier-ed

***

For more on the Blazers, check out the crazy-popular SB Nation sister site Blazer's Edge and their game preview. Also, check out me rambling about the Sixers to my friend Dane Carbaugh over at A Young Sabonis.

Game starts at 8:00 EST.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Liberty Ballers

You must be a member of Liberty Ballers to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Liberty Ballers. You should read them.

Join Liberty Ballers

You must be a member of Liberty Ballers to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Liberty Ballers. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker