Slowtime’s coming to town!
Tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers(12-11) play host to the floundering Los Angeles Lakers (10-14). As is usually the case with the biggest team in the NBA, most of the narratives around tonight’s game center on the Lakers.
The one Sixer-centric plot that we won’t see played out is how Andrew Bynum plays in his first game against the team that drafted him and with whom he helped win 2 championships. Mostly, though, the drama swirling around this game has little to do with the Sixers.
The Lakers have struggled to meet the lofty expectations heaped upon them when they traded for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard before the season started. Those expectations were even further raised when they hired offensive genius Mike D’Antoni to replace coach Mike Brown after five games. Unfortunately, those expectations haven’t come close to being met. Yet.
The Lakers have been plagued by injuries, and outside of their top five, they’re not a particularly deep team. When that’s combined with the fact that they’re integrating new personnel and coaching schemes, their subpar record makes sense. And, consider this, despite the Lakers sub-.500 record; they have a positive point differential. That’s an accomplishment the Sixers can’t put on their resume right now.
I guess this a long way of me saying that the Lakers are a dangerous team, and as fun as it is to treat them like a joke, they’re capable of beating any team in the league. Granted, they’re at a serious handicap with Pau Gasol and Steve Nash out, but Kobe Bryant is playing lights out and Mike D’Antoni is adjusting his coaching on the fly to fit with the players he has.
The Sixers are coming off a tough loss to the Indiana Pacers. One of the most noticeable factors in their loss was their inability to secure defensive rebounds at the end of the game. Granted, that’s a completely different game if Jrue Holiday played (to say nothing of if we had Andrew Bynum), but it probably wouldn’t have changed the fact that the Sixers were clearly by the Pacers’ size and it seemed like Roy Hibbert was capable of scoring when it really mattered.
If Jrue sits, it’ll be hard to predict a Sixer win, but regardless, here are some things to keep an eye on.
Who’s gonna guard Dwight Howard? The Sixers might actually have an easier time containing Dwight Howard than they did Roy Hibbert for the following reasons. First, Dwight Howard is 6’ 10” which is a much more manageable height for the Sixers’ frontcourt. Also, Dwight is clearly not 100%, so he’s not quite as devastating athletically as he usually is.
Will Doug Collins employ Hack-a-Dwight? A few teams have employed this strategy pretty successfully thus far into the season. As a former player, I’m not sure Doug Collins will be willing to disgrace the game with such a strategy. But, regardless of whether or not Howard hits the free throws, this tactic seems to genuinely miff the entire Lakers team and take them out of their game.
Can the backcourt consistently penetrate? The Lakers are slow on the perimeter. Guard penetration forces Dwight Howard to come out of the paint to help stop the ball, which in turn should let our bigs get layups and alley-oops. The Lakers defense hinges on Dwight Howard protecting the rim and covering the rest of the team’s vulnerability, so if the Sixers can get him out the paint they’ll get layups.
If all else fails, the Lakers haven’t won a single game when Kobe’s scored over 30 this season, so if things are going badly they should let him score.
Game starts at 6.
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