"Oh God, Where Are You Now?" - Sufjan Stevens
Game Overview: You thought last game's starting lineup was bad? Well, I've got some bad news for you. DeSagana Diop is packing up his Waterpik and Croc-Pot and moving to his new residence as starting center. Also, starting point guard D.J. Augustin, starting shooting guard Gerald Henderson and starting small forward Corey Maggette are still out with toe/back/hamstring injuries.
Starting Gana Diop may add a little defensive bonus, but how much? He's slow-footed and overweight and he'll just be guarding Tony Battie tonight with Spencer Hawes' achilles bothering him. I'd still advocate for Biyombo to start, as wet behind the ears as he is. If he can't defend Tony Battie, that's a serious issue.
I haven't watched the 76ers much this year, but I do know this: you will not beat them without ball movement in isolation. Their defensive philosophy is to give less attention to midrange jump shots, the most ineffecient shooting location, focusing on defending the three ball and the paint. Andre Iguodala is one of the top three or four perimeter defenders in the league, helping force opponents into taking the most long twos (via Hoopdata) and having the worst 3P%. But though they are pretty effective at keeping opponents out of the paint, it is also where they are most vulnerable. This poses a problem to the Bobcats, who can't get into the paint to begin with.
More on the 76ers soon from Michael Levin over at Liberty Ballers after the jump.
The Sixers are a good basketball team. It's hard for my fingers to type those words because, well, in my heart of hearts, I don't particularly believe it. As much as it gets poo-pooed on, the NBA is a superstar's league, and the Sixers have no one that qualifies. They have a number of very good players that work nicely enough together that their skills can be blended into some haphazardly slipshod ball club that somehow wins games. And usually they win those games by a lot.
They lead the league in defensive efficiency and are 3rd in offensive efficiency, which puts them right at the top in differential. It's pretty damn impressive all around. They do pretty much everything well on the basketball court save for rebounding, which is due in part to the fact that Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic have missed ample time (FRANCISCO ELSON THOUGH!), and getting to the foul line - the latter of which concerns me the most because of the constant settling for long jump shots that have, thus far, managed to find their way through nylon.
Save for Hawes (AKA Wight Howard) and to some extent Andre Iguodala (re: 3pt percentage), no one is exactly having a career year for the brotherlovers. I put a ton of their success on Doug Collins, who has shown that he can absolutely still coach a team. I've got plenty of qualms with DC in his in-game coaching choices (lack of Evan Turner for huge stretches, sticking the ball in Louis Williams' gut in crunch time while lighting the clipboard on fire), but he has gotten the absolute most out of this team and if he's not frontrunning Coach of the Year, then I'm DeSagana Diop.
Tonight shouldn't be very difficult because, as you know, the Bobcats are terrible. But in the scheme of things, this Sixers team is still a huge piece away from growing legs in a postseason run. Not to say that a high-volume scorer like Carmelo Anthony would help because that isn't the style, but a legitimate big man that can both protect the paint and score in the post (Rumor has it Dwight Howard would sign for the veteran's minimum) would get this team over the second round hump. The improvement of Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday is honestly worlds more important than a few extra wins this season, but because the new ownership is so on board with WE HAVE TO WIN NOW due in part to the miniscule attendance numbers, it seems like they're going to keep ramming their head into that wall and hope it'll break open before their skull does. That makes sense, I promise.
Key Matchup: Kemba Walker vs the world -- the Bobcats can't keep up this style of basketball in which Walker takes about a quarter of all the team's field goals. I get that he's the most talented healthy guy in this lineup, but he needs to get others involved. Paul Silas is going away from giving his point guards more free rein, moving towards calling more plays. Hopefully this structure will help Kemba develop more as a point guard. But if he reprises his role as "The Last of The Bobcat-hicans", it will be another long night.
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