On Tap: The Philadelphia 76ers

 —  March 15, 2005

Tonight I hope to see Frank Hamblen’s Lakers take the court, because last night I could have swore I watched the Rudy T. Lakers — and their 34 three point attempts. I kept rewinding TiVo to see if Rudy T. was wearing a Kurt Rambis mask and taking his place on the bench, but there was no compelling evidence to prove my theory. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

For the past five quarters the Lakers have moved away from the triangle. The problem with that is they had success in the fourth quarter in Charlotte so they moved farther away and closer to the isolation-and-three offense of earlier this season in Washington. In part, this move was pushed by Washington’s pressure defense, but the Lakers didn’t fight through it. The result was shooting 40.9% (eFG%) for the game and an ugly loss.

Tonight is a match up of two teams battling to make the playoffs (Philly is 1.5 games back of the eighth playoff spot in the East) with both needing this win.

The 76ers probably thought they were playoff bound when at the trade deadline they picked up Chris Webber. But in the last 10 since the trade they are just 4-6 (Webber has been there for nine of them and they are 4-5).

Offensively, the 76ers have been a little better since the trade. They are shooing 48.5% (eFG%) in their last 10, compared to 47.2% for the season. Their offensive efficiency is 102.4 (points per 100 possessions), compared to 100.6 for the season.

Defensively, however, they have gotten worse. In the last 10 games, teams are shooting 51.1% against Philadelphia, compared to 49.1% for the season. Their defensive efficiency in the past 10 is 105.1 (close to the Lakers 105.8 for the season) compared to their season average of 102.2.

The Lakers can try to exploit this defense tonight by going right at Webber. He and his bad knees can’t cover Lamar Odom and his quickness. If the Lakers are going to go away from the triangle tonight, isolation plays with Odom are the way to go.

The Lakers will need to show up defensively tonight as well, particularly in transition. Look for Philadelphia to push the ball, they have the second-highest average number of possessions per game in the league, 97.8, trailing only Phoenix (98.6).

Obviously, stopping the 76ers starts with playing good perimeter defense on Allen Iverson. He has a PER of 23.8 this season (ninth best in the NBA). He is averaging 28.5 points per 40 minutes but is only shooting 44.6% (eFG%) for the season. For comparison, Kobe has a PER of 24.01, is scoring 27.2 points per 40 minutes and shooting 47% for the season.

One other Sixer to watch is Lakewood-born Kyle Korver, who is shooting 56.2% this season and leads the Sixers with 1.17 points per shot attempt thanks to his proficiency from beyond the arc (40%) and good free throw shooting (87.3%). (The highest Laker in PSA is Atkins at 1.15.)

With tough games in Miami and Indiana looming, the Lakers need to win tonight to make sure they finish the road trip at least 3-3. I just hope Rudy T. isn’t hiding on the bench again.