The Sixers haven't played since Wednesday the 22nd, when they lost to the Celtics in a back-to-back the day after getting digested by the Bulls. Four days to forget about their 11-18 record, celebrate Festivus and some other holiday, and re-group with family and friends away from the team. For the mix of young and old players on this team, that break would have been extremely useful.
But as the Sixers land in Denver's high altitude, all the fuzziness is replaced by difficult breathing and the South Park Cows. The Nuggets are 16-12, coming off two tough road losses to San Antonio and Oklahoma City. They're the third best home team in the league, only losing at the Pepsi Center to the Mavericks and Spurs by a combined seven points. But they've just flown home from an OKC loss where Carmelo Anthony didn't play due to his sister's death. George Karl indicated he won't be playing for at least a few more days. J.R. Smith got the rare start, playing an ineffective 28 minutes in the loss.
More Nuggeliciousness after the jump.
Karl has been going to Ty Lawson for more minutes, being rewarded by the 2nd year pro, putting up over 13 points on 56% shooting in December. He's converting at a hair under 40% from three-point range on the season, continuing to prove doubters wrong about his lack of an outside shot. With a usage rate at less than 20%, he's posting a 0.130 WS/48 and a 28% assist percentage -- very impressive for a backup point guard and even more impressive when you consider a good chunk of minutes have been played next to Chauncey Billups.
As always, the matchup between Lawson and Jrue Holiday will be heavily scrutinized even more than Evan Turner and Derrick Favors will be since they play the same position. Lawson shredded the Sixers for 23 points and 9 turnoverless assists last time they met, when EJ's boys stole one on the road. Most of that production was against a defender other than Jrue, as the omniscient Eddie played Allen Iverson and Louis Williams for 64 minutes while Jrue got 11. For the people who think Turner shouldn't be playing because he "doesn't deserve it" and "isn't trying", Holiday got the shaft from Jordan same as Turner from Collins and he's looking to be okay.
It's been over a week since Turner played a meaningful minute, but I expect Doug will go to Evan tonight because of the matchups with Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith, and UMass alum Gary Forbes, who's gotten some play at the small forward position under Karl. If Turner gets another DNP-CD, you're all fired from whatever jobs you have. I know all of your bosses.
The Sixers most effective lineup, despite the recent dip in production from Jodie Meeks, is the starting lineup with Meeks at the 2. They're a plus-54 with a 1.18-to-0.92 offense/defense and a 75% win percentage, according to HoopData. Jodie's been pretty bad since he put up 19 in the primetime loss against the Celtics on the 9th. He's getting to the line 4-5 times per game, but shooting 4-26 from deep. If he's not shooting well, he is mostly worthless on this team. A regression to the mean was very expected with the Jodiac -- this is why his ceiling is a 6th man on a good team. Turner should be getting more minutes than Meeks for the benefit of the future of this club.
If Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand can do a decent job on Nene Hilario and Kenyon Martin, the Sixers wings should have a shot to win this game for them. J.R. Smith isn't good enough to be a number one offensive option, and Andre Iguodala should handle him pretty easily. Andre's the key to this game.
No Lou tonight, according to our inside source (The Legend), he just had a kid.
Prediction: Nene proves too difficult for the Sixers inside, Billups hits a ton of three's, and Sixers lose 108-97. Eagles postponed until Tuesday so everybody can watch the Sixers!