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Game 33 Preview: Sixers vs. Blazers

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Game Time:  7:00 Pacific  TV:  Comcast

The #1 thing you need to know about the Philadelphia 76'ers:  They're really struggling this year, carrying a 7-22 record into this game.  Shooting guard Andre Iguodala is one of a small cadre of significant Sixers who can lay claim to having a legitimately good season.  He's averaging 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists trying to do it all for the club.  But his shooting percentage is 50 points off of last season's and he's feeling the pressure of carrying the torch by himself.  Forward Thaddeus Young has been slipping farther and farther towards the perimeter and is seeing his time and shooting percentage drop.  He's been having 1 good game in 2 lately.  Point guard Lou Williams is another guy whose season has been decent despite suffering a broken jaw recently.  He's getting more minutes, more shots, more points, and more assists.  Prodigal son Allen Iverson has been injured and may make his return tonight but it's undetermined as yet.  Promising scoring center Marreese Speights missed much of the season so far with a knee injury and has been sporadic, though occasionally explosive, since his recent return.  Forward Elton Brand, coming off injury, had a rotten start to his year but is slowly rounding into form.  He's not the fearsome figure he once was.  Shooter Jason Kapono doesn't get minutes or shots anymore.  Shot blocker Samuel Delambert can still block shots but can't hit one and has seen his minutes reduced as he's pushed by Speights.  It's a team full of guys who are struggling because of injury, changing roles, inexperience, disuse, or being thrust into situations they're not suited to.  It's a mess.

The #2 thing you need to know about the Philadelphia 76'ers:  Nothing like this ever seems to matter when they play Portland.  They get tough.  They grind out games.  They take your pretty-boy basketball and ugly it up, slow it down, bump it around, and leave you nursing wounds from a loss you didn't think was coming.  The Sixers don't match up on paper with any of the teams Portland has faced and beaten recently but Portland better not take this game lightly.  Philly is slowly starting to recover and the Blazers don't look that great right now on paper either.

Philadelphia has been somewhat of an oddity so far.  They're a slow-paced team that has been in grind mode for years.  However they do like to score on the fast break.  And unlike many slower-paced teams their points in the paint are low and their defensive efficiency is horrible.  When things are going south for them it's usually because the opponent is scoring in the paint at will.  They have neither the individual defensive prowess nor the team trust to forge a solid back line and/or rotations.  Iguodala's playing too many minutes to also be a sell-out defender and nobody else among the wings is entirely capable.  Combine all that and you have a sieve that they can't score enough to keep up with.

The Sixers are opportunistic, however.  They will create turnovers.  They will offensive rebound.  They will run when they can.  You want to stop the game from being exciting for them.  When they have to work hard they suffer.  They often have trouble scoring the extra points at the arc and the foul line to buoy them when they can't get easy buckets.

Long story short, if the Blazers work hard tonight they should have a good chance of winning.  If they walk in expecting the win because of what they've just been through and what they see on paper Philadelphia is going to teach them a painful lesson.

Keys to the Game

1.  The most obvious thing the Blazers can do to win this game is not to make it easy for the Sixers to defend.  Don't walk the ball up and set.  Don't go one-on-one.  Don't settle for jumpers.  Move, cut, screen, pass, and make them make decisions and adjustments.  They probably won't and you'll have an easy time scoring.

2.  Limit turnovers.

3.  Realize that few of their regular rotation guys can hit a three.  Don't leave them wide open but do realize they're more likely to want a shorter jumper than the long bomb.

4.  Rebound their misses or they will.

5.  LaMarcus Aldridge needs to score because you know some of their forwards will.

Check out the Philly perspective at LibertyBallers.

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--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)