1. Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds.
The Hornets have one of the bigger frontcourts in the NBA. With Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman in the middle (and sometimes together) along with offensive rebounder extraordinaire Carl Landry, the Sixers will need every rebound Spencer Hawes can get. New Orleans has out-rebounded their opponents by nearly 9 per game in the young season. While unsustainable, this could help a team that’s not good at much else take away a victory. Even if fewer shots are going in, those 9 opportunities could become huge. Second behind the Hornets is the Blazers, and we saw what they did to the Sixers on the boards.
Meanwhile, the Sixers have done okay themselves overall, out-rebounding opponents by 1.3 per game. I’d be thrilled if that held all year. Golden State and Phoenix certainly didn’t hurt.
The Sixers have a mostly healthy roster, with few games and some rest since the last game. New Orleans has missed Eric Gordon for their previous two games, which (a) hurts their team immensely and (b) hurts my fantasy team. If Gordon misses the game, the Hornets will have a lot of trouble scoring against the Sixers. Mind you, the Hornets scored like 23 points in the first half of their meeting at the Wells Fargo Center last season with Chris Paul actually with the team. So the Hornets could be in for a rough night scoring with or without Eric Gordon. But without Gordon they almost don’t stand a chance, especially if Trevor Ariza does play. Apparently he’s injured as well.
The Hornets have so far leveraged their rebounding advantage with a slow paced game – according to basketball-reference, the Hornets are 29th in pace, which measures the amount of possessions each team gets in a game. A team has possession until they give up control of the ball. New Orleans happens to accumulate a lot of offensive rebounds and holds the ball for long periods of time. The Sixers, while slow in the half-court, like to get out and run while preventing opponents from doing so. Usually you can find a guard or two back on every fast break, ready to stop it. So the Hornets crash the offensive boards and rarely run. The Sixers focus on defensive rebounds and running when they get the ball, while preventing the opposition from that.
It also will be interesting to see (for me, at least) whether Collins has his rebounding guards push the pace – Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner have done it before and are certainly capable of doing it again.