It’s good to be home, but the Blazers aren’t getting much of a break. The remaining schedule is fairly balanced, a technically the Sixers at home would slot into a should-win column. But I don’t trust Philly, not when they always seem to have something special against us, whether it’s in close wins or comebacks. I just don’t trust them. They will probably show up, so we’ll have to as well.
Fortunately, my best, educated guess is that this is going to be a blowout. Just a hunch, because in reality the Sixers match up quite well. Even without Brand, they’ve got size to keep up with our bigs and the athleticism to keep up with our guards. If he can’t go, we’ll miss Batum’s defense against the Iguodala/Young combo, but the greater impact would be the unknown that is Travis Outlaw in the starting lineup. The thought is that he’d be a better starter in front of the home crowd, but he never seems to find his rhythm when he’s watching Portland establish LaMarcus in the post. We don’t need Super Trout, but we need contributions, and a little defense would be nice.
Similar to when we play Utah, the Sixers have a bunch of rebounders that can really hurt us if we aren’t boxing out. Dalembert is long, but we can count on Joel and Greg to take care of him. Reggie Evans and Mareese Speights, however, can both come in and offer Paul Milsap-esque rebounding numbers in about 15-20 minutes apiece. Neither are anything close to prolific shooters, so LaMarcus will just have to worry about the area by the rim and not on closing out on jump shooters. Box out, Box out, Box out.
The biggest matchup problem is Andre Miller, who can back his way down to the post on either Blake or Sergio and force a double team. Bayless might get a little more run for his defense tonight because of this, but he hasn’t been showing up lately when given the chance. Miller will draw the center over to help, so whoever is playing the four spot, whether it’s LMA, Travis or Frye, needs to be ready to find the player that the help defender left. Otherwise there will be some easy, lemon-squeezy putbacks. Rotate, Rotate, Rotate.
To be honest, I haven’t seen much of the Sixers since they lost Brand, but the handful of games I have watched have been a return to the up-tempo style of last year. In the Garden, the Blazers can probably beat the Sixers at their own game, but it’s important to pick the right spots to put on the burners. That said, I’d like to see a little more patience from Rudy on the three’s. If we get to running the Sixers will expect Rudy to launch treys on the secondary break. Pump fake, pump fake, pump fake.
Every game is a big game at this point, which itself is becoming cliche to write. But there’s no closer division battle than ours, and with games against both Utah and Denver on the horizon, we’ve got to take advantage of every home game we get.