I need to admit right out front that I have not seen a single preseason or 2006-2007 season game played by the Philadelphia 76ers. This is not a team I usually follow, and I didn't know that I was going to start writing gameday warmups until I woke up on Sunday and wrote one. All of my subjective thoughts on the Sixers will be based on previous seasons and what I have read this season.
Poor Luke. Whether he ends up with the defensive assignment or not (I think he has to have it) the average fan will lay the blame on Luke for whatever damage The Answer does to the Sonics defense. Iverson is one of those top tier players in the leaugue that simply cannot be "stopped," merely "contained" or "limited." He was named Eastern Conference Player of the week last week and is averaging 29.7 points and 8.5 assists so far this season. He averaged similarly gaudy numbers for most of last season, but it didn't seem to translate into wins. The same problem is plaguing the Sixers this season as they are even with three consecutive wins (Atlanta, Orlando and Miami) followed by three losses (Indiana, Toronto and Denver). He will likely put up huge numbers tonight. The most important challenge will be to "limit" his penetration, which will once again rely on Luke and the bigs.
Like New Jersey, the Sixers rely heavily on their starters for scoring. Iverson, Korver, Iguadola and Webber all average double figures, and Dalembert is averaging 9.8 points. The bench is fairly weak. If the Sonics can hold off one or two of the starters, they have a much better chance to win this game. Korver has not been known as a dynamic player, but he finds himself open quite a bit off Iverson penetration. The Sonics need to resist using Korver's man to help on Iverson. Let the PG and the bigs handle that option and make Korver shoot everything with a hand in his face. Iguodala is a slasher and a sick athlete. Lewis has the length to guard Iguodala, but needs to keep Andre's lanes to the basket closed off. The bigs will be watching Iverson, so Lew needs to take his man on his own. Dalembert is not generally an offensive threat, but he is strong on the offensive boards and is not afraid to put the ball back up on the glass. He also benefits from the excellent interior passing skills of Chris Webber. Webber is not the same player he once was, we hear that all the time. He prefers to man the high post and shoot the jumper. Wilcox needs to contest that jumper and remember that his man can shoot. Because of his passing, the Sonics need to resist the urge to double Webber. Off the bench, Willie Green has scored in double digits in his last three games.
Defensive rebounding is very key to tonight's game. Philadelphia takes a lot of shots, mostly by Iverson and Webber, neither of whom shoots a great percentage. Iverson tends to have better FG% numbers because of the huge number of layups he gets, but his shooting tends to be streaky and much better in the clutch than throughout the course of the game. The Sonics need to get those available rebounds and launch their break like they did in New Jersey.
Effective FG% Leaders
Steven Hunter: 87%
Andre Iguodala: 64%
Kyle Korver: 63%
Samuel Dalembert: 62%
Allen Iverson: 46%
Offensive Rating Leaders
Andre Iguodala: 121.76
Allen Iverson: 117.26
Kyle Korver: 115.01
Samuel Dalembert: 103.49
Steven Hunter: 83.97
The Sixers have a very quick and sneaky point who has led the league in steals three times. Iguodola is an amazing athlete and a solid defender. Dalembert is a superb shot blocker, and his backup, Stephen Hunter is quite good defensively as well. The weak points for individual defense in Sixers lineup are Korver and Webber. We need huge games from Allen and Wilcox/Collison. This should open the game up for Luke, Earl and Rashard once Iverson and Iguodala are forced to help defensively. When Nick plays center he needs to be able to hit that midrange jumper to draw Dalembert and Hunter out of the post to open lanes for Luke and Earl.
The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks on his team's concerns for the game tonight...
"We've got our hands full in terms of rebounding the basketball," he said. "That's where our challenge is. We also have to get better team-wise on defense. But if we can rebound the ball, I think we give ourselves a chance."
The Sixers three wins came against teams that leaned heavily on their guards for scoring. The three losses came against teams who leaned heavily on their front court for scoring. The Sonics need to get the available rebounds, run, feed the bigs and attack the team defense weakness of the Sixers by going at Webber and Korver.
This is another very winnable game for the Sonics, but the strength of their backcourt combined with a strong defender on Lewis and blocking strength at the rim mean that the Sonics cannot make more than a few mistakes if they want to break above .500 tonight.