Philadelphia 76ers/Phoenix Suns Preview: NBA Game with SEC Speed


Things haven’t looked good for the 0-11 Philadelphia 76ers so far. Losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics this week have perpetuated discussion of the Sixers as potentially the worst NBA team ever. There was even talk of what would happen if the 76ers squared off against this year’s Kentucky Wildcats, who demolished Kansas on Tuesday night. I’d talk about this briefly, but Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation did well enough to squash the theory the Sixers wouldn’t win.

While the results might be crap, the 76ers have played some entertaining games. Tonight’s matchup with the Phoenix Suns probably will follow that path – A Sixers loss that is really fun to watch. It will be fun despite the 76ers’ 76ers-ness, because these teams run, and run a lot. The 76ers are 2nd in the NBA in pace right now, and the Suns are fourth. These teams get out in transition a ton, and that type of back-and-forth action is really fun.

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  • The up-and-down pace that this game will be played at favors the Sixers’ offense, but really will cause problems for their defense, as the Suns are masters at creating transition threes and finishing on the break. They also force a ton of turnovers, which the Sixers are more than happy to give out, and while the Sixers will get to crash the glass and create some clean looks off misses (Phoenix is 27th in ORB%), The Suns will likely get plenty on the other end as well. The Suns also have a great unit of scorers in the backcourt of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas, who will take advantage of Philly’s lack of solid on-ball guard defense and rim protection to get plenty of easy looks.

    Michael Carter-Williams finally returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Boston Celtics, and looked really iffy on both ends as he struggled to manage Rajon Rondo on both ends. Carter-Williams had 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and four turnovers, a pretty mediocre game for him, and it was surprising to see him look so ugly as Tony Wroten (21/3/7 stat line) actually looked pretty solid offensively, especially running the second unit. I’m sure this is a one-game mirage, especially as Carter-Williams definitely looked better than Wroten against San Antonio and Houston, but with the Suns’ backcourt looming, Carter-Williams needs to be locked in for long stretches on both ends, because he’s probably going to draw the assignment on Dragic for most of the night, and have Bledsoe on him on the other end.

    The 76ers also get a third straight game having to find an answer for a stretch-four type that can bang inside, as Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, and Anthony Tolliver could cause tons of matchup problems for this team. Monday night, the Sixers got torched from outside by Matt Bonner, who led the Spurs in scoring with 18. Jared Sullinger also abused the team Wednesday, going for 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists. Power forwards who can knock down outside shots and rebound well have killed Philadelphia this season, because they lack the personnel to effectively deal with that combination of skills. Noel still isn’t strong enough to out-muscle someone like Morris off the glass, and Brandon Davies and Luc Mbah a Moute have struggled worse to defend these types. If anyone not named Dragic or Bledsoe kills Philly tonight, I’d lay big money it’s going to be Markieff Morris.

    An answer to that conundrum could come if Robert Covington makes an impact tonight. He’s played two games in a Sixers uniform, and so far has looked good despite his shot not falling. He’s averaged six points, two rebounds, and 1.5 assists and steals, and really looks like he might have the tools to be an effective two-way bench player for this team. Hopefully tonight he gets an increased role, especially with the glut of players that Phoenix has that he could match up well with defensively.

    The Sixers will likely drop this game. The Suns are too good at fast-paced NBA warfare, shoot too many threes, and force too many turnovers for the Sixers to really keep up. However, the game will still be fun to watch, because it should be 48 minutes of bouncing-off-the-walls chaos.