No rest for the weary.
After a valiant losing effort in last night’s overtime loss to the Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder, the Sixers are back after less than 24 hours to take on the Phoenix Suns.
Coming in to the season the Suns were most notable for their loss of franchise point guard Steve Nash and their inability to steal Eric Gordon from the New Orleans Hornets. Despite those failures, the Suns are considered a dark horse playoff pick in the West.
The Suns are led by two former backups to perennial all-stars in Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat, who backed Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, respectively. Both players have come into their own since stepping out of the shadows, and, though neither is at the level of their famous leading men, they have proven to be effective and capable.
Dragic and Gortat are flanked by Philadelphia’s own Markieff Morris, an inside-outside scoring threat, former Laker Shannon Brown, and major talent/headache Michael Beasley. They also have a nice bench with the likes of Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, and slightly rejuvenated Jermaine O’Neal forming one of the better reserve frontcourts in the NBA.
All together, the Phoenix Suns have one of the best offensive teams in the league averaging 100.5 points per game. Unfortunately, their opponents average 103.2 points against them, the worst number in the NBA so far this season.
If the Sixers are going to win this game, they’re going to have to find a way to slow down the Suns offense while taking advantage of the many matchup advantages they’ll have on the other end.
Here’re some things to look out for tonight:
Jrue Holiday is going to bounce back. Jrue had his hands full last night, but Dragic is not nearly the player that Russell Westbrook is on either end of the floor. Expect Jrue to return to form tonight. Also expect Shannon Brown to assume some of the defense duties on Jrue if Dragic can’t keep up.
Evan Turner will play with confidence. Evan had a great game last night against OKC, and part of the main reason he did so well was his responsibility to create while Jrue struggled. I wouldn’t be surprised if Doug Collins found some ways to make Evan the primary creator at different spots in the game—maybe by playing him with the second unit. With Jason Richardson unlikely to play because of his ankle, the Sixers will need Turner to continue growing and producing.
Defend the three pointer. The Suns like to shoot threes and unless they’re playing Luis Scola at power forward, they usually have four guys on the court that have 3pt. range. The Sixers have let a lot teams stay in games by not defending the three well. The Sixers have to be relentless in keeping the Suns from spreading the floor and getting open deep looks.
It’s been my experience that teams coming off overtime losses usually do better than expected. The Sixers had a disappointing loss last night, so let’s hope they take out their anger on Phoenix. Tipoff is at 6pm.
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