Late Sunday game for the Sixers on a day that includes the Philadelphia Marathon and a thrilling Eagles loss (that hasn’t happened yet) to the Washington Redskins.
In the penultimate game of this five game home stand, the Sixers (5-4) play the Cleveland Cavaliers (2-7). At first, this might seem like a game between the relatively effective offense of the Cavs and the Sixers stingy defense. Further evaluation of the statistics, however, tells a different story.
First, a quick digression. Andrew Bynum is out for tonight’s game after suffering a bruised right knee during preseason. Reports earlier this week had him slated to return to basketball activities on December 10th. However, it is now being reported that that timetable might be in the trash after Bynum allegedly hurt his left knee while bowling.
Anyway, back to the stats. The Cavs are considered a middle of the pack offensive team. Their 97.6 points per game puts them in the exact middle of the NBA. What that number fails to acknowledge, however, is that the Cavs are second in the league in Pace, with 95.5 possessions per game. That means that although the Cavs are an average offensive teams in terms of production, they’re a below average team in terms of efficiency.
The Sixers are even more abysmal on the offensive end, combining a below average pace with a below average offensive efficiency. Unlike the Cavs, though, the Sixers have one of the league’s best defenses backing them up. If the Sixers are as good defensively as their statistics suggest, this game will hinge on Philadelphia’s ability to limit the Cavs possessions.
Here are some other things the Sixers will need to do tonight:
Contain Anderson Varejao. Not only does the Cavs hardest working Brazilian neutralize Andrew Bynum's dominance of the embarrassing haircut stat, he grabs rebounds, sets hard picks, and makes anyone else who isn’t trying look bad. On defense, the Sixers need to do everything they can to keep him out of the paint on rebounds and tip opportunities. On offense, the Sixers need to try and draw fouls on him in the hopes that he’ll have to play with some restraint as the game goes on.
Force the guys around Kyrie Irving to create offense. The Cavs really struggle to score without the involvement of Kyrie Irving. When a team has one great player, it’s always a sound strategy to make someone else beat you. In the case of someone like Irving, that means limiting his ability to get his teammates easy shots. Taking it a step further, the Sixers should be fine with Irving scoring, as long as he’s not racking up assists along with that.
Produce from the Small Forward position. Whether it’s Dorell Wright, Evan Turner, or even Thaddeus Young, someone has got to press the advantage the Sixers have at the 3 spot. Jrue Holliday is going to have his hands full with Kyrie Irving, so he can’t be expected to do everything.
Game starts at 6 p.m. It will also be featured on Comcast Sports Net locally and NBA TV national.
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