The race to the four seed didn't exactly go as planned. The Hawks lost to the Celtics, like they were supposed to, but the Sixers lost at home to the Bobcats. With only 11 games remaining in the season, every game was basically a must win, and the Sixers lost an "easy" one. I knew I jinxed it.
Not only does the fourth seed look completely out of reach, but the Sixers are now a full game out of the fifth seed, and only 2.5 games in front of the Bulls and the Pistons. Don't look now, but a Sixers losing streak could very well earn them a date with King James and the Cavs in the first round. Bummer.
Today the Sixers play one of the teams chasing them -- the Pistons.
We know a little about the Pistons from our first round match-up with them last April, and although some things remain the same, many things have changed.
For one, they no longer have Chauncey Billups. Thank God. Billups always seemed to come up with a huge play. He ran the offense beautifully and always shot 90 percent from the free throw line. The player they traded him for -- Allen Iverson, a player we also know a little about -- won't play in tonight's game either. He's missed the past 16 with a sore back, and is just a mere image of what he used to be.
Rasheed Wallace will also miss today's game.
Last April, one of the prominent sub-plots in the Sixers/Pistons match-up was, Tayshaun Prince completely shutting down Andre Iguodala. Today's game will be a good barometer of how Iguodala has progressed since then, if any.
To the actual game. I'm trying to decide on whether I like this match-up or not. Three stats jump out at me when I look at the Pistons.
- 89.2 -- the amount of possessions the Pistons use on offense in an average game. The Pistons rank 30th in the NBA in terms of pace, which means today's game should be played at a very slow pace. That doesn't go well with the Sixers desire to run.
- 21.0 -- the Pistons turnover ratio. The Pistons are first in the NBA in taking care of the ball. This, along with the Pistons slow paced offense serves as a double-whammy to the Sixers chances of running. This means more half-court offense. Yikes.
- 4.5 -- the number of threes the Pistons hit per game. It gets even better. If you take out Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson's numbers, the Pistons hit just 2.3 three a game. 2.3 threes! Teams usually hit 2.3 threes on the Sixers per quarter.
So the Sixers biggest strength -- forcing turnovers and racking up fast break points -- is negated by the Pistons ability to take care of the basketball and slow the game down. On the other hand, the Sixers biggest weakness -- perimeter defense -- probably won't be a factor in today's game, considering the Pistons team who will be on the floor averages 2.3 per game.
The game is going to boil down to which team is able to impose their will on their opponent. Will the Sixers still be able to force turnovers and speed up the game? Or will the Pistons hang on to the ball, slow the game down, and force Reggie Evans to have the ball in his hand with the shot clock winding down?
My advice to the Sixers:
- Throw Andre Iguodala on Rip Hamilton. He's the only offense the Pistons have without Sheed and A.I.
- Feed the ball to Thaddeus Young. I assume the Pistons will have Antonio McDyess guarding him, and after what I've seen from Thad this month, Antonio has no chance. Thad has become our biggest offensive weapon -- use him.
Tonight's game is going to be ugly, but in case you haven't figured out, it's pretty important. Watching it won't be for the faint of heart.
Let's go Sixers!