This may be a special night for 76er fans and AI, but it is not looking to be very special for Nuggets fans. So far this season Denver has yet to win the second game of a back to back set on the road after losing the night before.
To make things worse, the Sixers have not played since Saturday and Philly has won nine of their last ten at home, with the sole loss being to Boston, and they are playing as well as anyone in the NBA right now.
That is right, anyone in the entire NBA.
To be honest, I am not quite sure how they are doing it. The formula seems to be defense and rebounding although I have no idea if they are doing a much better job at their strengths or if they have augmented their game in other areas. They have held seven of their opponents under 100 points during their current 9-2 stretch and three of the four who scored over 100 points were Golden State, Phoenix and Boston. There is no shame in giving up more than 100 to any of those three teams.
Another impressive feat is Philly seems to have improved by giving more minutes to young players, specifically Thaddeus Young. The Sixers have taken off once he started playing major minutes.
The lesson here is do not take these guys lightly.
Of course regardless of what happened last night, the Nuggets should be full of confidence tonight as Philly only managed to put up 117 against Seattle so the Nuggets clearly have the edge there.
Philadelphia would seem like they might let the Nuggets off the hook in one area and that is perimeter defense. Philly only takes 11 threes a game and they shoot a putrid 32%. That means there is a slight chance that J.R. Smith will take more threes than the entire 76er team tonight. Louis Williams is Philly’s best three point shooter by percentage at 36% and he takes less than two threes a game. Andre Igoudala is the other primary threat as he takes three and a half threes a game, but he is very streaky and only makes 32% on the season. However, Igoudala has been hot in March shooting 43% on 28 attempts over eight games.
One thing Denver does have to worry about is getting hammered on the glass again. Philadelphia is tied for second in the league in rebound rate. They are a slightly below average defensive rebounding team, but they are number one by a wide margin under the other team’s basket with an offensive rebound rate of 32. No other team is over 30. Everyone must rebound tonight.
Former Nugget Andre Miller has been a great addition for Philly and gives them the stability they need on offense.
Of course, the big story is AI’s first game back in Philadelphia. You know he will be jacked up and he admitted that he has known all along when tonight’s game would be played. As I pointed out previously, he did not do so hot in his first game against the 76ers after the trade, but hopefully he will come through and play a great game tonight.
There may not be many positive signs for the Nuggets heading into Philadelphia, but if we are looking for good news, I think there are two bits of it to be found.
First of all, I finally heard George Karl produce somewhat of a challenge to his team this morning. When asked if tonight’s game was a must win game, he responded with the typical no game is must win, but admitted that the Nuggets need to win five of the remaining seven games in March. Finally, a goal that will require some commitment and effort to achieve instead of the win ten games in November even though they play 17 times crap.
On the other hand we all know how dangerous that an attitude of winning X games over such and such a time period can be because you can lose a couple and still tell yourself that it is alright we still have a chance to reaching X wins. Then all of the sudden you realize that you came no where near X wins. Even so, I am glad Karl came out and said publicly that they really need to turn things on and they cannot afford to wait any longer to do so.
Secondly, Golden State is in for a rough stretch of games to end the month of March as well. They dropped their second easiest game remaining on the schedule last night in Sacramento and they play their easiest game tonight in Los Angeles against the Clippers. After that they have six tough games including Houston, the Lakers twice, Dallas and Denver.
After last night, I do not expect much from this team, but it should be an interesting game at the very least.
For some insight into the 76ers head on over the Sixers 4 Guidos and load up on some of the good stuff there from Ricky in Italy who probably is the best NBA blogger living outside of the United States. Is that like being the WWE Intercontinental Champion?