Win one for the gipper. The Sixers will face the Pacers Wednesday night in the final game of the Doug Collins head coaching era; the team’s level of effort in the game may serve as an indication of the players’ feelings regarding Collins’ departure. Will the Sixers dig deep to send off the man who has presided over the team for the past three years on a high note, or have they completely tuned him out at this point and just want to offseason to begin? It should provide an interesting litmus test regarding the makeup of the roster.
While Philadelphia’s season was completely derailed, the Pacers have put together a strong campaign, and are currently locked in to the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs regardless of the outcome of this contest. Indiana has been off since losing in New York Sunday, a game that clinched the second seed for the Knicks, as the Pacers’ Tuesday night game in Boston was cancelled in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. George Hill has already been ruled out to rest a nagging groin injury; D.J. Augustin will start at point in his stead. There were discussions by the Pacers earlier in the week about resting Paul George, David West, and Roy Hibbert in at least one of what they thought at the time was their two remaining games. You would expect those starters’ minutes to be greatly limited, if they suit up at all, in what is a meaningless game for them against Philadelphia. As a result, we will see plenty of Tyler Hansbrough in the front court, as well as former Sixer Sam Young and Gerald Green on the wings.
The contest may be the last game in a Sixers uniform for Dorell Wright, Damien Wilkins, Nick Young, Royal Ivey, Justin Holiday, and Charles Jenkins, who are all free agents after the season. Wilkins and Holiday would appear to have the highest likelihood of returning next season, hopefully at the veteran minimum and first-year player minimum, respectively. The team doesn’t need another Lavoy Allen situation where the team gives a few million dollars to a guy who is nothing more than a deep rotational player.
Keys to the Game:
- Prevent penetration by Lance Stephenson. With the higher profile starters expected to rest, Stephenson will likely be a focal point of the Indiana offensive game plan. Stephenson excels at getting to the rim but is still a subpar outside shooter at this stage of his career, shooting around 29% between 10-23 feet. He also is not much of a threat behind the arc, sporting a 33.2 3PT% this season.
- Keep a body on Tyler Hansbrough. The North Carolina product has earned his ‘Psycho T’ moniker, as he ferociously attacks the offensive glass. His 13.0% offensive rebounding rate is just behind Roy Hibbert for tops on the team among regulars and ranks 23rd in the NBA (min. 10 minutes per game). Hansbrough has done well on occasions where he’s received more minutes, as he’s averaged 15.4 points and 10.3 rebounds in 7 games as a starter this season.
As much as I would like to believe the Sixers beat a Pacers team playing mostly bench players, Philadelphia has done anything but consistently rise to the challenge this season. Those second stringers for Indiana will not be loafing around, they will be fine-tuning their games to gear up for the playoffs. The Sixers look disinterested in losing the season finale, margin of defeat to be determined by the amount of time the Pacers starters receive.