Tonight the Sixers play the second of their Texas two-step against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs haven't played since Wednesday so they should be well-rested. They're also healthy which seems to be a rarity for them. Matt Bonner hasn't played since opening night with an ankle injury and rookie shooting guard James Anderson fractured his foot in their last game; he'll be out 2 months. Meanwhile the Sixers are a banged up team playing the end of a back-to-back, and the fourth of a grueling five-game road trip. Pair that with the fact that the Spurs are a 6-1 veteran team and the Sixers are tied for the second worst record in the league, and an eighth loss looks inevitable.
For the Sixers, Lou Williams is playing with a separated shoulder, which clearly hampered him last night. Prior to injuring his shoulder Lou had been the Sixers second best player. Andre Iguodala is also playing through an injury to his achilles and besides his human sacrifice of Brian Cardinal last night, he too was moving gingerly up and down the court.
The Sixers will need their perimeter trio of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala – starting only their second game as a threesome – to lock into beast mode defensively if they want a chance to upset the 6-1 Spurs tonight. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are still Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and Richard Jefferson is off a ridiculous hot, efficient start to the season. He's averaging nearly 19 points per game and 2+ threes on percentages of 59 and 53. Of forwards who have played at least 100 minutes, RJ ranks third in true shooting percentage.
Holiday, Turner and Iguodala will also have to carry the offensive load by creating for themselves and others since the Sixers best scorers (Brand and Lou) are facing serious obstacles tonight. Lou, is dealing with his aforementioned injury which limited him to 9 minutes and 2 points last night, and Elton Brand will be matching up with Tim Duncan. Duncan clearly isn't the dominant defender he once was, but he's still incredibly effective and his length will likely give Elton problems, who's also past his prime.
A day after allowing Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood eat them alive on the glass (Chandler had an OREB% of 13 and a DREB% of 38 and Haywood had an OREB% of 43 and a DREB% of 37), the Sixers will have to deal with the size and rebounding of Duncan, Blair and McDyess. It's imperative for the Sixers to box out and rebound as a unit, given their lack of a dominant decent rebounding big man.
The Gary Neal Effect
Unlike years past the Sixers have actually been great at limiting their opponents three pointers. As a team they're tied for second best percentage against at 30.2%. However; I have a sneaky feeling Gary Neal will assume the role of "Who the hell is that guy?" ... "Wait, how the hell does he have 8 threes?!" tonight. Neal is making 1.7 threes per game at a 50% clip, in just 11 minutes of action. With back-up two guard James Anderson sidelined with a broken foot, look for an increase in minutes for Ah! Neal Mosters and a potential break out game for the 26 year-old rookie.
We're losing by 30; give me one reason to keep watching
I'll give you two! Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Last night Jrue Holiday played a fantastic point guard, running the offense and making Rondoesqe passes. Regardless of the score, his brilliance – whether as a floor general, the Sixers future, a lockdown defender in the making, or a guy with a weirdly awesome spelled first name – is worth watching every minute of.
And Evan Turner. Admittedly not as entertaining to watch as the speedy John Wall, but Andre Miller-effective nonetheless. He's still feeling his way around the league and remains passive on offense, but he effects the games in subtle ways whether it's being the team's best rebounder, flying under the radar as a perimeter defender or hitting the occasional spot up jumper. It's only a matter of time before him and Jrue run this franchise. Watch him develop, and enjoy it!
Game's at 5:30 pacific, game thread will up sometime before. Until then, rubadubdub San Fransisco.