I always get a little nostalgic when the Spurs and Sixers tangle. These were my teams growing up. I got attached to the Spurs for geographic reasons, living outside of Austin, but I fell in love withe the Sixers because of Dr. J., Moses, Mo Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and the Jones “brothers”, Bobby and Caldwell. After the Moses-Jeff Ruland trade, the Barkley trade, and Allen Iverson becoming the centerpiece of the franchise, it was easy to drift away from any allegiance to the once mighty Sixers. But I guess I still view them as my favorite team in the East and confess to checking their box scores with some regularity. Tonight, though, I hope they lose, so the Spurs can get the rancid taste of the Knicks game out of their mouths.
1. Song of the Game: The Dandy Warhols, “We Used to Be Friends”
I have a deep affection for The Dandy Warhols that borders on complete irrationality. They are in no way the most talented band around and most of their music is a thin as tissue paper. But, holy heck, is it fun. Say what you want about The Warhols, they know how to enjoy making music and making it fun to listen to. One of the best things I can say is that they sound like almost no one else. I grabbed this song for this game because: one, I have been listening to Welcome to the Monkey House non-stop for the last two days; and, two, the song reminds me that I used to really, really like the Sixers, but I haven’t seen them lately at all.
It also dawns on me I may have used this before. I don’t care. I like it that much.
2. Who Has to Be Stopped: Jrue
Jrue Holiday is the straw that stirs the drink for Philly. When they let Lou Williams go in the offseason, they handed the car keys to Jrue. He’s responded with a breakout kind of season, posting a career high in PER at over 18 and averaging 19.5 points and 9.4 assists per 40 minutes. I love Jrue a lot. He reminds me a bit of Tony Parker, in that he has to continually balance his ability to score versus running an offense and getting other players involved. I’m convinced he’s starting to find that balance and the Sixers are a better team for it.
3. Who Has to Go Off: Danny Green, Manu, Gary Neal
Behind Holiday, though, is a backcourt that needs attention. The Sixers start Jason Richardson and Evan Turner at 2 and 3 respectively and the bench is wafer-thin at the guard positions, with Nick “Have Ball Will Shoot” Young and Dorrell Wright. Let’s just say this is a group that struggles defensively. The Sixers are solid inside, so it will be imperative for the San Antonio guards to have solid outings.
4. And the Crystal Ball Says….: Spurs, 104; Sixers 89
This Sixer team is a middle of the pack bunch: 16th in defensive efficiency, tied for 21st in offensive efficiency. If the Spurs do what they need to do – ball movement on offense and get out on shooters defensively – this should be a comfortable margin of victory.
5. I’m Wrong If….: Jrue, Evan, or Nick Goes Crazy
A huge game from one of their guards – and I’d be betting on Nick Young if anyone – could turn the tables and make this a much tougher game. In addition, if the Spurs are suffering from a hangover from the previous 4-in-5 stretch, this game might start slow and muddy.
6. Odds and Ends
As several on Twitter were pointing out today, Hollinger’s Playoff Odds essentially have 7 Western teams projecting as over 90% likely to make the playoffs. See it here, if you want. If this is at all accurate, the Lakers, Jazz, Blazers, and Wolves are basically fighting for the 8 seed and all of those teams – save the Lakers – are .500 or better right now. This is the reason it’s hard for me to take the middle-tier East teams (basically, the Not Miami group) seriously; that schedule is padded with Brooklyns, Milwaukees, and Torontos, all of whom are Eastern playoff contenders, but wouldn’t be sniffing .500 in the West. In Hollinger’s Power Rankings, the top 6 teams and 10 of the top 15 are all Western teams. It’s brutal out here, folks. Anybody besides me remember when San Antonio played in the East?
Jack’s injury is unfortunate but maybe it will open up some more minutes for Nando and Gary Neal. It was also 100% preventable. I’ve been griping for years about the camera guys along the baseline and how someone is going to be seriously injured by their positioning. Well, it’s not much different with a server on the sidelines. It simply should not be allowed during live ball situations. Come on, NBA. If Pop sitting 3 starters for a TNT game is somehow “not in the interests of the league”, player safety certainly should be. Back up the photographers and no servers on the sidelines during live play. It’s an easy rule to make.