After Joakim Noah abused them on his way to a career-defining performance, the Sixers return home trying to break a 7-game losing streak against the struggling Golden State Warriors. Despite still holding the 6th seed in the Western Conference, Golden State has been on a downslide of late, going 3-9 in their last 12 games. Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote an excellent piece this week on the recent struggles of the Warriors stemming from their return to poor defensive habits, sporting a 108.0 defensive rating over their past 17 games. At the moment, Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely with back spasms, forcing the Warriors to rely even more heavily on a David Lee-Carl Landry front court. Carl Landry is undersized for the power forward and the team improves measurably defensively with him on the bench (101.6 defensive rating off the court, 105.5 on). This line-up also forces David Lee to play center, who by one measure, is the second worst interior defender in the NBA, with opponents shooting 61% near the basket against him. Fortunately for Golden State, Philadelphia has looked like anything but a squad ready to pick apart a defense over the last few weeks. If the Sixers are going to have a chance to win this contest, they will need a vintage Thad Young performance to exploit this terrible defense inside.
However, on the other end of the court, the Warriors can score as well as anyone (9th in the NBA with a 103.9 offensive rating on the season), even during these past few weeks. Steph Curry’s 54-point performance (Including an unconscious 11-13 from behind the arc) at the Garden this week has been all the talk among NBA circles. His relatively good health this season has been the biggest reason for the Warriors’ turnaround, averaging 22.0 ppg while ranking 2nd in the league behind Kyle Korver with a 45.5 3PT%. Additionally, despite his atrocious defense, David Lee made his first all-star team this season because he has been incredibly effective on the offensive end with 18.9 ppg on 51.3 FG%. After facing a Chicago team struggling to score almost as much as themselves, Philadelphia might find the highly-skilled and efficient Warriors’ offense to be a rude awakening.
Finally, with the announcement that Andrew Bynum may have season-ending surgery, fans can finally put any hope of a miraculous return out of their minds. Honestly, I’m glad the ‘will he, won’t he’ saga with Bynum seems like it can be put to rest. I’ve given up any hopes on the season for a little while now; at this point, I’ll settle for one victory.
Keys to the Game:
- As mentioned, the Sixers must receive a big game from Thad Young. Lee and Landry log the majority of the frontcourt minutes for the Warriors and can be torn apart. Young has shown flashes of his old self following his return from a hamstring injury but has also been rusty at times. Philadelphia needs a 20 and 10, high-energy game from Thaddeus if they’re to pull this game out.
- Limit the open looks from downtown for the Warriors, who lead the league at 39.4 3PT%. Jrue Holiday needs to be a shadow following Steph Curry through screens around the court. Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack are also above-average three-points shooters; the other Sixers backcourt members can not lose them on the outside.
- Get a strong effort from each unit. Bench players like Wilkins, Pargo, and Wright were the only ones to show any heart against Orlando. Then against Chicago, the starters played fairly well but the bench was a no-show. The Warriors will be on the back-end of a back-to-back after playing Boston the night before; run hard throughout and use your depth against their tired legs. It will take a full team effort against a quality opponent like Golden State.
Golden State’s biggest weakness (frontcourt defense) is not something Philadelphia is built to exploit. Without a post threat and relying too much on long jumpers, the Sixers cannot muster enough offense to hang with the high-scoring Warriors in dropping their 8th in a row.