After an embarrassing loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Sixers should be more than eager for redemption. Joel Embiid and company find themselves going up against DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs. Much like the Indiana Pacers, the Spurs find themselves shorthanded but the Sixers can’t underestimate them. Star LaMarcus Aldridge is out for the season after shoulder surgery but that may not be the worst thing for San Antonio.
The Spurs have struggled this season and their 22-year playoff streak is in danger. One of the causes seems to be the ill fit of the stars and youth. The Spurs actually looked much better in their first two seeding games without LaMarcus Aldridge. Possibly more important is the team’s loss of role-player Trey Lyles who will miss the rest of the season after undergoing an appendectomy.
The Spurs cannot be overlooked like the Pacers were. The team has looked better than ever so far and could potentially give the Sixers issues.
Keys to the Game
The Sixers need to keep it simple and above all, Brett Brown needs to make wise decisions with regards to playing time. The Sixers struggled against the Pacers for many reasons but one was the team’s carelessness with the ball. The team finished with 21 turnovers, far more than any team can commit and expect to win. Seemingly everyone was guilty save for Tobias Harris. The Sixers will need to care for the rock with more intensity if they’re going to win tonight.
One of the more head-scratching moves Brett Brown has made this season was the way he handled Raul Neto against the Pacers. Neto played over 20 minutes while Alec Burks and Matisse Thybulle each only played 12 minutes. Burks was a hot hand offensively and Thybulle was the only player who slowed down TJ Warren (who put up 53 points). Shake Milton struggled offensively and suffered from early foul trouble, to replace him, Brown chose Neto instead of Burks or Thybulle. This crushed the Sixers both offensively and defensively and is a primary factor as to why they lost.
A lot of tonight will once again fall on Brett Brown.
Stop the Three-Ball
The Spurs have been red-hot from deep since the league resumed. They’ve shot over 40% from three in each of their first two seeding games. They were the fourth-best shooting team during the entire season so this is nothing new but it is certainly something the Sixers have to pay close attention to.
The Sixers were just roasted by TJ Warren from deep and the Pacers as a team also shot above 40%. Brett Brown should instill an outside-in defensive approach keeping the majority of defenders guarding the arc while Joel Embiid/Al Horford man the paint.
There are so many capable shooters on the Spurs offense that tight rotation will be key as it’s not just one elite shooter. The only players who aren’t a threat from three are DeMar DeRozan and Jacob Poeltl. If the Sixers cannot defend with consistency it will be a long night, much like against the Pacers.
Joel Embiid put up a dominant performance against one of the better defensive Centers in the league against the Pacers. Embiid made Myles Turner look like Jahlil Okafor on his way to 41 points and 21 rebounds. While the Pacers have a defensive anchor in Turner, the Spurs have nothing close. Jacob Poeltl (their starting Center) is defensively sound but nothing special. He is also very young, something Embiid can and will take advantage of.
The Sixers need to run their offense through Embiid once again and he will lead them to victory. With Aldridge and Lyles out, the Spurs lack size. Their starting unit so far has featured two Point Guards, two swingmen, and a Center. The Sixers have a clear size advantage and they need to take full advantage of it.
Simmons and Horford should also look to attack the paint but Embiid is the leader of this team offensively and defensively. Brett Brown must get him going early and often.
How to Watch the Sixers
Tonight’s game is a must-watch after the debacle against Indiana. Tip-off is at 8:00 PM EST and you can watch the game through NBC Sports Philadelphia.
This looks to be an early must-win so make sure you tune in and you can join us tonight for a watch-along of the game.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports