Record: 16-16 (Pythagorean 17-15), 7th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Offensive Rating: 111.2 (5th in league)
Defensive Rating: 107.6 (20th in league)
About the Sixers: For many seasons, Allen Iverson was the poster child for inefficient scoring â€” he got his points but took an inordinate amount of shots to do it.
He still takes a lot of shots (he and Kobe are battling for who uses the highest percentage of their teamâ€™s possessions, Kobe leads right now), but Iverson in the last couple of seasons has started to become efficient â€” not Richard Jefferson efficient, but not bad either. Iverson is shooting 47% (eFG%) from the field, and when you add in all the times he gets to the free throw line, he has an above average true shooting percentage of 53.7% (compare that to Kobeâ€™s 46% eFG% and 52.8 ts%). Plus in the last two years Iversonâ€™s assists per have gone up as well, 6.8 per 40 minutes now.
All that has sparked a very good Philadelphia offense. Chris Webber is the second leading scorer, 19.6 per 40 (Iverson is at 30.7), but Chris is only shooting 43.3% from the field. That said, he is grabbing 10.3 rebounds per 40 and is a +3.8 per 48, so the team plays better with him on the floor.
The guy that has really blossomed is Andre Iguodala â€” a true shooting % of 62.9% (second highest in the league) and he is a +10.4. Also, Kyle Korver can fill it up if you ignore him.
The problem is the defense â€” Philly just isnâ€™t very good at it across the board. Iversonâ€™s quickness tends to slow opposing point guards, but their defensive PER is below average at every other position.
One thing I hope to see tonight: Someone other than Kobe or Iverson be the gameâ€™s high scorer. Of course, Iâ€™d like to drive a Masarati too, and thatâ€™s about as likely to happen.
The Lakers coming in: Want to feel better after the recent Laker five-game losing streak? Iâ€™ve got two things that can help.
First, you know the first four losses were by a total of 13 points, right? Well, Justin, the guy behind the amazing basketball-reference.com, has written a piece looking at the age-old premise â€œgood teams win close games.â€ Turns out, not so much. Rather, good teams blow out other teams. Read the story for all the details but look at it this way: Last season the top four teams in winning percentage of games decided by five or less points: Washington, Orlando, Denver and New Jersey. Not the leagueâ€™s creme de la creme. (The top four by blowouts: San Antonio, Miami, Phoenix and Dallas â€” far more indicative of good teams.)
The other thing to cheer you up â€” Kobeâ€™s back.
Bad news about Slava Medvedenko, who needs to have back surgery on his bulging disk and likely will miss the rest of the season. I wish him the best and hope he makes a full recovery. (That said, it does clear a roster spot for Ronny Turriaf.)
Keyâ€™s to a Laker win: The Lakers can score a lot of points tonight. Kobe, Odom, Mihm, anyone inside should â€” should â€” be able to get their shots tonight. Webber’s knees donâ€™t let him defend much anymore, if he is on Odom the Lakers should exploit that all night.
Defensively, Smush and Sasha are not going to stop Iverson, but if they can use their length to make him less efficient it will be a big key. Also, the rest of the Lakers need to help out but not let Korver or Iguodala or Webber get loose for a big night â€” good defensive rotations after Iverson drives and draws help are a must. The Laker defense has been sloppy of late and this is a team that can exploit that.
I expect another close game â€” so for a change the Lakers need to execute down the stretch.