1. Effort Level
I can pretty much copy-paste this until the end of the season. Will we try today or not? Fairly simple.
If the Sixers give an effort (not out of the question, given that they may want to avenge the ugly loss earlier this year to the Nets) they can win fairly easily. If not, well, we’ll have another stinker on our hands. Watch the defensive rotations and the responses to adversity – runs by the Nets or a bad foul call. I’m anticipating the players’ responses to these things will help illustrate where their minds are at.
2. New Jersey – a talented bad team
Since acquiring Gerald Wallace (who unfortunately for NJ is now injured – he’ll miss tonight’s game), the Nets have been a decent team, if not a playoff team. But with Deron Williams, Wallace, and Kris Humphries plus an assortment of wing players, New Jersey wasn’t playing bad basketball. If Brook Lopez was healthy and this roster stayed together for the full year, it could easily be a playoff team. I’d posit that they have more talent when healthy than the Sixers do.
We all know how good Williams can be – he carried the Nets in Philly for the first matchup – and with some weapons around him he can be dangerous. Stopping Williams will be the key, because if he gets everyone else involved this can get ugly, quickly. Everyone else can help when he plays well. When he doesn’t, it’s a struggle. Jrue Holiday will have the primary assignment – let’s see how he does, as his defense has been up and down recently.
3. Not the only remaining game – looking forward
The Sixers and Nets have 3 games remaining, including tonight’s. The roster for New Jersey could change drastically, with injuries and not competing for anything and whatnot. But the schemes, defenses, coaching will all remain the same. Getting familiar with what New Jersey’s strengths and weaknesses are – for example, they shoot a crapton of threes (2nd behind Orlando for most attempts) and aren’t much of a defensive team (29th in defensive efficiency) – will be useful for this team if they make a playoff run.
Whether they want to make a playoff run or not, however, is a bigger question than anything.