Almost three weeks ago, the Sixers went to Chicago on the second game of their eight game road trip and got dismembered by the Bulls, 121-76. Since then, they've gone 3-4 and sit at 14-21 on the season. Miraculously, that abhorrent record is good enough for 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, sitting 13.5 games back of the conference-leading Celtics. They're only 6 games in front of the bottom-feeding Cavs for last place.
After handling John Wall and the Wizards at home on Wednesday, the Sixers will try to continue their success at the Wells Fargo Center, where they have won 8 of their last 10. They'll be doing it again without the services of Andre Iguodala, who has missed the last five games with a sore Achilles. Andres Nocioni figures to start again in his place and Evan Turner will get significant minutes.
Fun fact before the jump: Dongaila played 10 minutes last time the teams met up. It's a Friday, so that means double shots for every minute he's on the court. Line 'em up!
The Bulls are the third seed in the East behind powerhouses Boston and Miami, led by the too-often-forgotten Derrick Rose. I'm about as big of a D-Rose fan as there is outside of Chicago. I think, sandwiched between Greg Oden and Blake Griffin (and now Wall) as first overall picks, he doesn't get the credit he deserves on the court. Check the comps with him, Deron Williams, and Baron Davis at their age 22 seasons. (Click for Engorgement Charm)
Baron isn't thought highly of anymore, but there was a time when he looked to be one of the best point guards in the league, before the injuries and the lack of effort showed themselves. Rose has higher shooting percentages than both of them, and is on par with D-Will for assist percentage. The 30.6% usage rate is sky high, but consider the injuries to Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer and it's no surprise Rose has been forced to take on a bigger role in the offense. His two weakest areas coming into the league were his outside shot and his inconsistency on defense. Currently he's 12th among qualified point guards at 3PT% at 39.4%, just a tick below Steve Nash. He's also taking the 7th most three's per game for point guards, which should actually be lower since getting to the basket is what he's best at. Defensively there's still work to be done, but his 6'8 wingspan and tremendous lateral quickness make him a prime candidate to work himself into one of the best defensive point guards in the league. Based on his athleticism, strength, and improved outside shot, I'd put my money on Rose becoming the best player out of other John Calipari-coached point guards like John Wall and Tyreke Evans.
So all this means is that Jrue Holiday has yet another tough cover tonight. In five games against each other, Rose has eaten Jrue alive, going 4-1, averaging 21 points on 51% shooting with 7 assists and 4 rebounds. Jrue came off the bench in just one meeting, but only went for 5.2 points on 28% shooting in the matchups. Throw away all that because Jrue is becoming a different player with each game. He still needs to add some muscle to match Rose physically, but they're within an inch of each other in height, and Jrue is only a bit slower than Rose in the open court. The way for Jrue to bother him on the defensive end is to keep active hands and force him to commit turnovers. Body him at the three-point line and don't let him get a head of steam going into the lane, because if he has room, he can beat anybody alive off the dribble. It's going to be a great chance to see how much Holiday is improving, especially when Rose works with Boozer off the pick and roll at the top.
Speaking of Boozer, in the Bulls loss to the Nets on Wednesday, coach Tom Thibodeau kept him on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, to Boozer's confusion. His reasoning was that he wanted another wing that could stretch the floor, allowing him to move Luol Deng to the four against New Jersey's bigs. Since the Sixers big men are far less imposing, it's highly likely Boozer will get plenty of time to battle inside with Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes.
- In the 45-point loss, none of the Sixers had a positive +/-, with Noce leading the bunch with a -5 in 12 minutes.
- The Bulls have the second-best defensive efficiency in the league at 96.8.
- Chicago is 8-8 on the road and Philadelphia is 9-6 at home.
- Elton Brand still leads the Sixers in scoring at 14.9 points per game. They are the only team in the league without a 15+ ppg scorer.
- Louis Williams is shooting a career-low 37.7% from the field.
Jodie Meeks hasn't had a 10+ point game shooting over 50% since December 9th. That's 13 games and he's started in each of them.
- Thaddeus Young has attempted just 15 three-pointers this season. The last two years, he averaged 151. His PER, WS/48, TS%, eFG%, DRB%, AST%, and TOV% remain the best of his career.
- Keith Bogans still gets 18 minutes per game, somehow.
Game time tonight at 7:00 EST. Check back for the thread later. Happy Friday. Happy Sixers.