The Kings and 76ers have yet to play each other, but will correct that situation twice over the next 10 days starting Friday at Power Balance Pavilion. The 76ers swept the Kings last season, 2-0. Philadelphia has won eight of the last 10 meetings against the Kings, including the last five. Under new coach Doug Collins the 76ers have improved from last season’s record of 27-55 and out of the playoffs to where they are almost guaranteed to make the playoffs this season. With 14 games to play they are in 7th place in the East with a record of 35-33 and 6 games ahead of 8th place Indiana, and only a half-game behind 6th place New York.
Besides adding a new coach, Philly has made very few other changes this season. The one Kings fans will be most familiar with was the June 17th 2010 trade of Samuel Dalembert to Sacramento for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni. Then at the 2010 NBA Draft, Philadelphia took Evan Turner with the 2nd pick in the first round. On July 21st Philadelphia signed 12 year pro Center Tony Battie. Battie has seen only limited action in 34 games this season and has played in only 10 games since December averaging 2.5pts and 2.5 rebs in 10 mpg.
In early September, FA Rodney Carney signed with Golden State and FA Francisco Elson signed with Utah. Then on September 23rd 2010, New Orleans traded Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins to Philadelphia in exchange for Willie Green and Jason Smith. Brackins has spent two tours in the D-League and has only seen action in 3 NBA games. Songaila has seen action in only 10 games averaging 1.6 pts/ 1.0rebs in 7 mpg. And, the 76ers weren’t involved in any trades at this year’s trade deadline. So, Coach Collins has basically improved this team with the same roster as last season, except for the addition of Turner and the acquisition of Noc and Spencer for Dalembert.
The two biggest factors in the team’s improvement are Defense and Health. Philadelphia is only average offensively but they have the 9th best Defensive Efficiency at 102.5. And, you can credit some of that to a healthy Elton Brand who has started 67 of Phillies 68 games, as has Hawes and Jrue Holiday has started all 68. Jodie Meeks has played in 60 games but has started the last 50, and Andre Iguodala has started all 56 games in which he’s played.
The 76ers are only an average rebounding team. Early in the season after the Dalembert trade, Collins was asked how the team would manage with the loss of their leading rebounder. Collins replied that everyone was going to have to rebound, and that’s what’s happened. Brand leads the team with 8.5 rpg followed by Iggy with 6, Spencer with 5.6, Thaddeus Young with 5.2, and Turner & Holiday with around 4 each. Offensively, Philly is 12th in FG% and 17th in 3P%, and has the 11th best FT%. They have the 4th lowest turnover rate.
Brand is the leading scorer at 15 ppg, and shoots 47% even on long 2’s, and takes as many shots from long range as he does at the rim. Iggy is 2nd in scoring at 14.4 ppg along with 6.4 asts/ 6rebs/ 1.5 steals. Louis Williams just slips in ahead of Holiday for 3rd in scoring averaging 13.7pts/ 3.3 asts/1.9rebs off the bench. Holiday averages 13.6pts/ 6.2asts/ 4rebs in 35mpg. Thaddeus Young and Jodie Meeks are the only other players to score in double figures at 12.3 and 10.2 respectively. Hawes and Turner average 7 and 7.4 ppg respectively. The only real 3pt threat is Jodie Meeks who’s shooting 40.7% on almost 4.5 attempts per game. But, Iguodala, Williams and Holiday can hit for average if left open. Thaddeus Young and Brand are the main scoring threats in the paints followed by Holiday and Iggy.
Philly is 13-23 on the road but are 7-4 since the beginning of February, with wins against the Nets, Atlanta, Minnesota, Houston, Cleveland, Indiana and the Clippers. Their 4 losses came against the Knicks, Memphis, Milwaukee and Utah. After starting out slowly and going 13-20 thru December, they have turned things around and gone 22-13. Their FG% and 3P% have improved and the PPG have jumped almost 5pts.
If DeMarcus felt that Samardo Samuels and JJ Hickman were hard to defend wait until he has to go up against All-Star Elton Brand. Not only did Brand score 19pts, pull down 12 rebs, and have 5 blks on Wednesday against the Clippers, but he also got ROY favorite Blake Griffin to foul out for only the 3rd time this season. And, if the Kings can’t keep Ramon Sessions, Cleveland’s lone outside threat to attack the rim from waltzing in at will, good luck stopping Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala.
One of these two teams will make the playoffs and one will end up with quite a few lottery balls. One will have a coach of the year candidate and the other will have a coach that will be incredibly lucky if he keeps his job. Should the Kings miraculously pull out a victory; neither of those facts will change. Until Tyreke returns, this team will continue to make mistakes and turnovers, and have difficulty running anything that looks remotely like a planned offensive set late in games especially against a sound defensive team like Philadelphia. My main reason for watching will be to see Sammy have a good game against his previous team. Go Sammy