Philadelphia (25-17, won last 3) @ Indiana (24-16, won last 1)
* 94.86 points per game (17th in the NBA) vs. 87.33 points allowed per game (1st)
* 45% FG (12th) vs. 41.4% FG allowed (1st)
* 43.62 rpg (6th) vs. 44.38 rebounds allowed (25th)
* 21.86 apg (8th) vs. 10.69 TO pg (1st)
* 95.03 ppg (16th) vs. 92.10points allowed (5th)
* 42.9% FG (25th) vs. 42.6% FG allowed (7th)
* 43.78 rppg (4th) vs. 42.93 rebounds allowed (21st)
* 17.98 appg (29th) vs. 14.4 TO pg (10th)
PG-Jrue Holiday vs. Darren Collison
SG-Evan Turner vs. Paul George
SF-Andre Iguodala vs. Danny Granger
PF-Elton Brand vs. David West
C-Nicola Vucevic vs. Roy Hibbert
Philadelphia-Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Jodie Meeks
Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, George Hill, Dahntay Jones, Lou Amundson
Injuries of note
Philadelphia-Spencer Hawes (Achilles tendon, game time decision)
Indiana-Jeff Foster (back, out)
The 76ers are essentially everything the Pacers want to be. They’re tough and hard-nosed on defense, they relentlessly hustle, they are stellar rebounders and they move and take care of the ball more effectively than almost every other team in the NBA. Defensively the Sixers are unmatched, allowing league lows in opposing points and opposing field goal percentage on the year, and averaging an incredible league high 49 rebounds per game over the last five (three of which have been wins against solid teams, the other two very close losses to Chicago and Milwaukee). So why are they nearly neck-and-neck with Indiana and Atlanta for a playoff seed between 3 and 6? Two words: Injuries and identity.
Philadelphia coach Doug Collins, who’s already proven himself as a better-than-we-all-thought, anti-rehash, is still tinkering with the lineup. Partly this has to do with depth problems, some caused by injury, some caused by sheer lack of talent after the Sixers’ top 6 or 7 players. There’s also a strange mix of youth and energy (Thad Young, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner), age (Elton Brand) and a chronic inability to get right on the injury front (Hawes). Like Indiana, Philly also suffers from an affliction known as “Not having a true star.” Philly’s best and most consistent player, Andre Iguodala, is a borderline All-Star with no discernible ability to take over scoring duties late in games. While they hope Turner will eventually assume this role, he’s been more (poor man’s )Iguodala and less Iverson during his first two seasons as a 76er.
The last time these two teams played, Philly won handily, beating the Pacers by 10. And while I’ve spent two paragraphs gushing over Philadelphia’s apparent superiority both on paper, and in actuality, Indiana proved last night that there’s a bit of a chip on its collective shoulder, and that the Blue and Gold are no easy out. No Pacers’ starter played over 30 minutes in the Portland blowout, leaving plenty of rested legs for tonight’s matchup. Also, Philadelphia is particularly shallow in the reliable post man department. Spencer Hawes, who’s missed 26 of the last 28 games with a nagging Achilles injury, is no lock to play. In Sunday’s win vs. New York, the starting Philadelphia bigs combined for 13 points and 11 rebounds, while tweener Thad Young was forced to play 35 minutes, most of which at the PF spot in a small lineup. If that happens tonight, expect the Pacers to pound it down low with David West and Roy Hibbert.
Prediction: Pacers 92, 76ers 86
The Pacers are well-rested and need a win tonight against their direct competition. Two in a row against current playoff (or fringe-playoff in Portland’s case) will go a long way to restoring this team’s confidence.
If you haven’t caught on to the Evan Turner phenomenon, now’s the time if he’s still available in your league. Turner’s started the last four games to outstanding results, especially as a guard-eligible player in the rebounds category. In that span he’s averaging 17 points, 12 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.8 steals and shooting 49% from the floor. Surely the rebounding will level off, especially as Philly increasingly integrates actual big men back into the rotation. But going forward the sky’s the limit. If you haven’t signed him, do so ASAP. Jrue Holiday is also on break-out alert vs. his former college teammate Darren Collison. This could totally happen.
Lucas Klipsch gets to keep his Reggie Wayne jersey! Yay! Follow him (Lucas Klipsch, not Reggie Wayne) on Twitter @LukeNukem317