OKC ThunderDome

Beyond…Waaaay Beyond…

Game 7 Preview: Philadelphia 76ers at the Thunder

Tipoff Time: 8:00PM EST

Key Players:

Elton Brand: 18.6PPG, 8.1RPG
Kevin Durant: 27.7PPG
Sergei Ibaka:  8.2RPG
Jrue Holiday: 6.1 APG

Key Injuries:

Jeff Green
Andre Iguodala

The 76ers come into this evening’s game at an anemic 2-5, toiling against the mediocrity of the Eastern Conference.  The Thunder are arriving in Philadelphia looking for a bit of a team identity.  At 3-3, they have suffered 3 humiliating losses where they fell out of competition early and never really regained a foothold.  They lost badly to a Clippers team that may be on the same competitive level of the Sixers.  The question tonight is, will Philly see that as a sign of weakness and play above their heads, thriving on the home crowd? Or will the Thunder seek to snap out of their season’s funk and finally assert themselves collectively?

What to expect:

The Sixers have become that kind of team that is like the Island of Misfit Toys.  They have a collection of castoffs, busts, and bloated contracts, with no little children loving them enough to buy their eponymous bobbleheads.   So it is appropriate that their guileless leader is none other than Doug Collins, last making an appearance as the lapdog of Michael Jordan while in Washington DC.  With Iguodala out for the game, their offense will mostly consist of an aging and oft-injured Elton Brand taking mid-range jumpers and a young Jrue Holiday looking for the Sixers’ young star Evan Turner (who has a delightfully odd-shaped Kerry Kittles-head) to produce offensive momentum.

Since the Sixers’ offense will likely revolve around Brand, he will be the priority of Sergei Ibaka, who should be well suited to cover Brand’s outside-in game.  Since this game is on the road and against an inferior opponent (at least talent-wise) the Thunder should look at this game as a science laboratory to try to iron out a few things with which they have struggled.  Here is tonight’s assignment:

  1. Stay competitive in the first half.  A half-time lead would be semi-quasi-orgasmic.
  2. Defensive rebounding.  Against the Clippers, I had warned that giving up second chance shots is a wonderful way to give an inferior team hope.  I think the same thing applies here.  When an opponent’s shots don’t fall, but they realize they can out-hustle you,  their entire outlook and energy changes.  You have to kill their early energy fast.
  3. Be patient on offense.  Westbrook will be going up against an inferior PG this game, and it is critical that he see this as an individual matchup the way he seemed to against Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo.  The best thing he can do tonight is to get the ball to Durant in easy scoring situations.  Work on those little Durant curls – they’re practically unstoppable.
  4. Limit Durant’s minutes.  He doesn’t need to be cranking out 44 minute games, not this early in the season, and not against a team like this.  He’s put a lot of miles on his treads this physical year, give him some breaks for the long haul.
  5. Try to get James Harden involved.  In my Bill Simmons post from yesterday, one of his hitting points was on Harden’s play so far this year.  The Sixers are the perfect team to try to get him involved and into the offensive flow.
  6. Try not to get out-coached by Doug Collins.  Dougy is one of the few guys whose broadcast booth prowess surpasses their coaching prowess.  In fact, a quick rundown, purely from memory:
    1. Pat Riley – better coach. duh.
    2. Chuck Daily – ditto.
    3. Magic Johnson – Much more fun in the booth than on the sideline, during his ill-conceived coaching spell that lasted half a season.
    4. Hubie Brown – the rare case of a man whose coaching and announcing are equally excellent.
    5. Isaiah Thomas – Just like Hubie, but in the exact opposite way.
    6. Doug Collins – Decent coach for the Bulls (epic perm-fro) but ousted right before they went on their Jordan-led championship runs.  In Washington, he served primarily as Jordan’s lapdog.  He is now the definition of a retread.   Much better in the booth.
  7. The Thunder don’t have to play great defense, they just need to defend the way they did in the second half against the Celtics.  They’re not, and never will be, a shut-down team.  What they do need to do is get stops so they can get their fast break going.

Prediction: Thunder by 7.

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