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Game 9 Preview: Blazers at Sixers

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A Look at the Sixers

The Sixers stand among the weaker sisters of the league so far this year.  Much like Portland after the departure of Rasheed and the gang they are in rebuilding mode.  That's not to say they don't have talent.  Andre Iguodala is among the more exciting 6'6" guys in the league.  He's strong, quick, intimidating, can score a ton, and throws in 7 rebounds and 5 assists to go along with his 18 points per game.  He's a load.  Like most guards who suddenly become the primary (and nearly only) option on their team his shooting percentage has gone down precipitously.  As Robin to Allen Iverson's Batman Iguodala shot a remarkable 50% from the field.  Last year that fell to 45% and so far this year he's at 43%.  It's no fun to have defenses key on you every single night.

Andre Miller is the secondary scorer and point guard for the team.  His start has been rougher than a sandpaper Q-tip.  His 14 points are about normal but his shooting percentages are lower and his assist total is off by 3 per game.  His defense has always been questionable which means he's not exactly carrying the star cred he used to.  Third-year guard Louis Williams has actually had a couple super-hot games and may provide more of a torch than Miller.

After that you start talking about a lot of one-trick ponies.  Center Samuel Delambert can block shots like nobody's business but is widely considered a disappointment for never honing the other parts of his game once he signed a large contract.  Kyle Korver is an outside shooter but is injured and out tonight.  Reggie Evans is a great rebounder but has trouble scoring and defending.  Willie Green is a 6'4" athletic guard who shoot a little but doesn't score a ton either and also never passes.  It's just a hodgepodge of guys who might be decent situational players but are either too inexperienced or too specialized to be filling major minutes.

The Sixers have had all kinds of trouble shooting the ball from every conceivable position including the free throw line.  They are averaging only 88.8 points per game.  Turning over the ball more than 17 times a game doesn't help.  They are a very good rebounding team and would love to ugly up the game, slow it down, and control the boards.  They do not share the ball very well so expect a lot of one-on-one breakdown plays.  Their defense is decent if you let them set up or you go at them without moving the ball but they will succumb to a team-oriented attack.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  The key to this game is choking the Sixers out at the head.  Miller and Iguodala can score but neither one is shooting very well.  Stay in front of them and make them put it over the top and you have probably won the game without doing anything else.  If they drive it's OK to put them on the foul line.  (So far the whole active roster outside of Green stinks from the line.) Just don't let them slash through for chances at the rim or short, pull-up jumpers.  If you hold down these two, or even one of them, the Sixers are probably dead in the water.
  2.  Playing up-tempo will almost certainly net you enough points to win.  Just push the ball and make them run.
  3.  This game will be all about Lamarcus.  He ought to have a field day against whoever Philly sends to guard him.  If you get stuck in the halfcourt just ride him.
  4.  If you limit Philly's offensive boards you take away a lot of their attack.
  5.  If the Lamarcus option isn't working be aware that the Sixers will give you plenty of open shots from the perimeter.  Again, a couple passes should free up any shooter you choose.
  6.  An early lead might cause them to lose confidence.  With the style they play and with scoring points being like pulling teeth for them this game could conceivably be put away early.  We just need to come out with fire.
  7.  What say we give Sergio a chance to burn their point guards and speed up the game for us?  This would be a good night for him.  (Hopefully he'll come to play if he gets the chance.)
I have not said this in many a moon, but if we put in a reasonable amount of effort we really should win this game.  The danger would be getting involved in an energy-sapping ugly-fest and then just getting ground down and brutalized.  Any kind of reasonably pretty game should see us walking out with our first road win of the season.  A loss would be...disappointing.

In case you haven't seen it this weekend's prediction form is here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)