Preview & Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

Kurt —  March 17, 2009

Records: Lakers 53-13 (1st in the West) 76ers 33-31 (6th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.8 (1st in league) 76ers 106.3 (23rd in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (6th in league) 76ers 105.6 (6th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
76ers Andre Miller, Willie Green (appropriate guy to start today), Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Samuel Dalembert

The Lakers coming in: Lest you think only you noticed this, early in his post game press conference after the Dallas game, Phil Jackson talked about how the Lakers have lost the killer instinct they had earlier in the season, when they got up by 15 and buried teams.

The players kind of shrugged that off at practice Monday. I personally think this is really a matter of boredom and focus, plus the injury to Bynum weakening the rotations. The Lakers keep winning, and while they get up for the challenges — back-to-backs in Houston and San Antonio — they get up by 15 early on Dallas and they just kind of start going through the motions.

But now is the time to start changing that, to start getting focused, because if it is Dallas in the first round they may not be so lucky to come back and win those games.

The 76ers Coming In: This is the first game of a six-game West Coast swing for the Sixers, who come in with a three game winning streak. The swing is a tough test, but it’s a chance for a team that is just missing that little something to pull together before the playoffs. They likely will get Orlando in the first round, and that is a tough task but not an impossible one (after the Nelson injury).

That little thing the Sixers lack, by the way, is any kind of consistent outside shooter. Nobody on the team stretches the floor. They are sort of like Utah of three years ago that way.

I have always loved Andre Miller’s game, he is a classic PG who can pass, penetrate and play solid defense. And he is playing well — scoring 18 a game while shooting 54% and dishing out 8 assists per game the last 10. Of course, the other guy to watch is Iguodala, who leads he team in scoring, slashes to the hole as well as anyone and gets them both assists and rebounds. Plus, he is the only guy to fear from three on this team, shooting 36.4% in the last 10 games from deep.

Keys To The Game: My one word of advice — don’t drink green beer tonight. Green eggs and ham I could see, but beer? No.

If there was one game where the Lakers pack-the-paint style of defense should work, it is this one — the 76ers are the worst three point shooting team in the NBA, hitting just 31.5% of their attempts. What they do have is an athletic front line, but if you can keep them out of the paint and shooting jumpers, they struggle. (That said, the Lakers need to be ready to adjust, Donyell Marshall got hot from three in their last game against the Heat and it changed everything.)

On defense, the Sixers are about gambling and forcing turnovers, which leads to easy buckets going the other way with all the athletic guys they have that can fill the lanes. The Lakers have to take care of the ball — I’m looking at you Farmar and Sasha.

Also, the Sixers do play some zone, and after the disaster against Dallas, you can be sure they will pull it out tonight. Darius talked about how to attack that:

The way to beat a zone is with the high post flash and the baseline player running from short corner to short corner as the ball reverses. Odom and Powell would be perfect in this role, but we have to be patient and move the ball.

One other lesson needs to be learned from the Dallas game — when the zone came out the Lakers became a jump shooting team, and that fueled some transition baskets for the Mavs. The Sixers are very good in the open court and would love some long rebounds and chances to run. Just another reason to make sure the ball gets inside early and often. Second unit, I’m looking at you. Again.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples, on Fox Sports in LA, if you’re already not too drunk on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you are, don’t drive (insert your own Norm Nixon joke here, if you want).



319 responses to Preview & Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

  1. This last home-stretch of games will be very interesting to see how the team responds to this loss. Phil’s postgame comments seemed to hint at the possibility of changes to the substitution patterns of the 2nd unit.

    I’m not too concerned with HCA in the Finals. The 2-3-2 format really puts a premium the home team protecting those first 2 games (or else possibly facing elimination on the away court), and we’ve proven that, thus far, we’re the best road team in the league. I’m more concerned with fine-tuning rotations, building confidence, and getting over whatever mental hump we have that prevents us from closing teams out as soon as we can. In other words, peaking for the playoffs instead of peaking for the regular season.

  2. To follow up to my last comment, HCA would be great in that it gives us a crutch to lean on if we struggle on the road in the playoffs, as well as a psychological boost from accomplishing a goal that we set in training camp, but it’s certainly no determinant of anything. For everyone who keeps on citing the Celtics last year as evidence that HCA is the postseason panacea, go ask Dwyane Wade how he got his ring.

    I agree with drrayeye that reestablishing our focus and our team concept will be most important. Get that right, and everything will flow from there.

  3. drrayeye,
    “The Lakers need to reestablish their “team” concept on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes–and show it for the next game. Everything else will take care of itself.”

    Definitely – unfortunately, there seems to be an attitude on the team that that can be turned on and off, and it’s not that easy, especially with a team that is still young and tends to lose focus. They need to develop those habit patterns.

  4. drrayeye,
    I did watch the game and and a couple of facts are becoming clear.
    1) Kobe has more problems when long, athletic people guard him.
    2) Pau has more problems when athletic, defensive centers guard him.

    When both these situations occur we really need a 3rd scorer to open things up. We don’t have one until Andrew comes back.

    Lamar has repeatedly proven that he has the consistency of a bench player, although he has the talent of a superstar. We simply cannot pay this type of player $8-10M/yr and I expect him to be gone next year, unless he settles for closer to the midlevel exception.

    Trevor is really playing his first year in the triangle and his first year where he is being asked to be a long range bomber. We won’t really know about him until next year. Another gamble, along the lines of Sasha and Walton.

    Farmar is probably a bench player.

    We don’t know enough about Shannon Brown to even play him much.

    We better hope Andrew comes back on time, because it is becoming apparent to us fans that the Lakers have some real cracks. If this is true, you can be our opposing teams also know this. With Utah it really doesn’t matter – they can’t guard either Kobe or Pau – but others, like Boston, certainly can. There aren’t many teams that can take advantage of our combined weakness, but they are out there.

  5. clutch824,

    I agree that there are some things to worry about in a loss like that, but am I ready to concede home court over it? No. It’s one game we have to make back. Not exactly an impossible task.

    yes, we have some issues, but so does every contending team. I’m not minimizing losses, but do not think our record is inflated. It’s easy for some folks to play the “this team was as good as its record” card after a loss like this, but what did they think of the team after our big wins? As recently as last week road back to back. All we know for sure is that our team isn’t invincible. That’s it. But we knew that from day one. Neither is Cleveland and neither is Boston.

    Did anyone think “this team was as good as its record” when we exposed weakness in the Cavs and Celtics? Did you think those teams weren’t as good after we beat them? They have bigger flaws then we do. Flaws that aren’t as easy to correct, or can’t be. Ours is focus. Theirs is personnel. But we we focused against SA and Houston? I’d say yes, so really, what was tonight? A bad loss, due to bad habits. When I see this team NOT SHOW up at all. I’ll be very concerned.

    Dude abides,

    Looking at Cleveland’s schedule, they have PLENTY of opportunities to lose a game. Wmight not go 15-0 or 14-1, but neither will they, and we only have to make up one game. WE have the tie breaker. Our road trip is not tougher than our last long Eastern swing, and remember we are the best road team in the NBA, the home games we have look good as well. Our toughest game should be in Portland.

    We will win homecourt.

  6. I don’t understand why everyone is drawing the conclusion that HCA is lost.
    Cleveland has home games against POR, ATL, SA, and BOS. Away game at Orlando.
    We have home games vs. HOU, DEN, UTAH. Away game at POR.
    True, CLE has a great home record, but they are also not great against elite teams. I doubt the those 4 teams care Cleveland has only lost 1 at home.
    It’s still possible that CLE loses 3 games and we lose only 2.
    But I agree with the commenters above that we don’t need HCA against CLE, but we do need it against BOS, given Bynum is not back to full strength. If he is, HCA does not matter.

  7. Grab your torch and pitchfork. Its time to riot in the streets.

  8. 306. Because the Lakers fan base, as a whole, tends to react like lemmings.

  9. It’s the LA in everyone; we tend towards the dramatic.

  10. I have not had the opportunity to study lemming behavioral much, but what do lemmings act like? Do they get sad too when the Lakers lose or cuss “f*kn lakers loss” in disbelief every 3 hours or so?

  11. After thinking about the game last night, a couple of points come to mind:

    *Kobe played limited minutes due to foul trouble and when he did play, it was below standard. He had a bad game. He made mistakes in the 4th quarter that I haven’t seen him make since…I can’t remember when. And we lost by 1 at the buzzer.

    *We had a below standard game in terms of turnovers. Not only did we turn the ball over more than normal, but we also didn’t force as many as normal. We went away from our strong side trap that produced TO’s in the first quarter and then we actually didn’t help on the dribble when we should have against a team that struggles making outside shots. And we lost by 1 at the buzzer.

    *We were +5 on the glass, +6 in assists, and shot a better FG%. We were relatively even in FT’s and in fouls committed. But the Sixers scored one more point than us by taking 12 more shots.

    All I’m saying is, we played a poor game and we lost. But it still took a last second shot to beat us. I think everyone gets upset about games like this because we can play better. We’ve seen it. We saw it last week. So, I don’t get how people think that we won’t play well again. Do we have flaws? Of course. But so does every other team in the league. I’ll happily take our flaws, with our players over those of other teams. Even if Bynum doesn’t come back as good as he was when he was injured. Does everyone else think we *won’t* play better than last night when the playoffs start?

  12. 305 – wondahbab, see that’s what I’m saying. This isn’t just about last night. That game was a reflection of the entire season since Nov. Not just when we get up for teams like Boston & Cleveland. It’s about who the Lakers really are as a team. As a team, we’ve regressed instead of building on last season. Injuries & trades don’t explain that away. Kurt’s mantra post was right on time. Also, I don’t even care about HCA. You have to be able to win on the road, period.

    About the “not as good as the record” thing, I can understand not buying that. I admit it’s kind of cliche, but my point is the team has not played consistently like you’ve historically seen teams play when they have this kind of lead in their conf. I’ve tried not to get too caught up in their gaudy record all season. It became easier to do so starting in mid Dec. I watch these questionable performances where 4 or 5 guys don’t show up and Kobe and/or Pau have to save the team. Or Kobe misses 3, 4 terrible shots in a row and then makes a huge, contested dagger and pulls it out. Lousy defense in both cases. We’ve gotten away with a lot of games this year. I and others here notice that stuff and potential playoff opponents are banking on that for an upset.

    It’s debatable what teams have the bigger flaws or what those are. I wouldn’t place us as the best team at the moment. And I personally think the Cavs are fine and I don’t want to see them in a potential Finals.

  13. 312. Clutch,
    If a one point loss, when we don’t play well is indicative of our season then I’m fine with that. You can claim that there have been many questionable performances that should have been losses only to have victory snatched back by Kobe or Pau. Okay, I see that. But we *have* Kobe and Pau. They’re on our team. If we didn’t have those guys, then I’d be more concerned. I’ve always taken a little bit of pride in winning games that we shouldn’t. Cleveland did that the other night against the Clips and no one is saying they’re not as good as their record. They did it earlier this season against the Warriors too. In fact, I’ve seen highlights of them winning at the buzzer or with comebacks in the fourth quarter that probably should have been losses and no one is saying that they’re not as good as their record. In fact, it’s the opposite. People say those performances show that they know how to win games. Why aren’t we the same? Against the Mavs, people point to the fact that we let the Mavs go on a huge run to take the lead. I counter with the fact that most teams don’t lose that lead and still come back to win. Most teams lose that game. We did not. In fact, this Philly game is one of the only games that we lost where they came back and we didn’t still pull it out. And it took a buzzer beater to make that happen. I’ll admit it’s not all roses and 1000 thread count sheets on my pillow top mattress, but it also isn’t all shanti-town at the Staples Center either.

  14. Darius, first the “pillow top mattress” thing was nice. Second, it seems like you’re lumping me in with the idiots in sports media or casual fans. Don’t do that. Of course you’re right about the double standard. Musik’s “record” statement that I supported somewhat affects the other contender’s records as well. I don’t want to trail off into that.

    About everything else, bottom line you either think the way we’re playing now (and a lot of the season) is good enough or you don’t. If you don’t, you have to wonder when we’re going to play better. Some believe there’s a switch and once the playoffs starts it GO time. I don’t believe that and I’m wondering when are we going to start gelling for a championship run. Maybe when Bynum get back, maybe April 1, maybe Thurs night againt Golden State. Who knows?

  15. Clutch,

    Every game the Cavs ave played this month has been close, except for 2. The loss to the KG less Celtics, and against Milwaukee.

    They aren’t playing as dominant as you would like to think. Will your mind change if Portland beats them?

    Why exactly are they better than us?

  16. Clutch,
    I’m not trying to lump you in with those groups, and I apologize that it came off that way. However, your comment(s) are indicative of the idea that the team is somehow not playing well enough to win and you’re basing that off last nights loss and many other games where we’ve either lost or games where we won but did not play well. I feel that using that standard is unfair and that by using those games or the negative qualities exhibited in those games is truly pessimistic. It’s why I mentioned the mattress vs. a shanti. I can easily admit that we’re not playing our best. But not playing our best is not the same as playing bad. Especially when the level that is *not our best* is still better than most teams can muster on any given night. And knowing that we can play better (which is evidenced by us actually playing better) makes me believe that we actually will play better. I have faith in that. I don’t necessarily need to see that now (though it’d be nice) because I know that level exists. One last point-I’ve said this before, but it’s going to take a strong effort to win the title, from us or from any other contender. If Boston or Cleveland or Orlando or San Antonio or New Orleans expects to beat us by hoping that we don’t bring our ‘A’ game, their going to be sorry they were holding out for something that they can’t control.

  17. wondahbab, I would say the Cavs are 1, we’re 2, Boston 3. That’s just a personal feeling. I like the cohesion the Cavs have with their roster. This garbage about LBJ not having help needs to stop. They have multiple people playing their roles very well, something we do not. If KG & Rondo wouldn’t have gotten hurt, I may have them as #2.

    Keep in mind, I base this on where I think the teams are, not how good they can be. I felt like everyone else after the Celtics game. That was the blueprint…