Good morning, my children. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
The Jimmer reckn'ing
has begun, all you sinners.
Now the ball shall fly.
That's rights, cats and poodles: Jimmer Fredette is making his first real NBA start tonight in Philly. I can't think of a more welcoming environment! (The Jimmer, Hallowed Be His Name, did tweet that he has many family and friends from New York planning to attend. Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson will also have sizable contingents.)
Marcus Thornton is out, which means Francisco Garcia and Isaiah Thomas will get more burn. Tyreke will probably play 40 minutes if it's a competitive game; he's been balling in the two games since Keith Smart took over as head coach, and the drop-off from him to the team's third guard given Thornton's absence -- El Flaco -- is stunning. Up front, J.J. Hickson will pair with DeMarcus Cousins in front of John Salmons (also a Philadelphia native).
The Sixers are off to a magnificent start. In the short time before tip-off, you'd be wise to brush up on your Sixers with help from Kevin Pelton, Kate Fagan and Zach Lowe. First, Pelton:
Through eight games, six of them wins, Philadelphia has outscored the opposition by an incredible 14.6 points per game, far and away the league's best mark. The 8-1 Miami Heat (+11.8 ppg) is the only other team averaging double-digit wins thus far.
At its very best last night, the offense was a stream of successive pick-and-rolls, run so smoothly that it almost looks like its own offense. If you watch, it looks like that carnival ride with two separately spinning axis: Thaddeus Young starts low and then loops up top to set an on-ball pick for Lou Williams. Williams and Young execute the pick and roll; Young sets the pick then rolls into the open space for a little mid-range jumper. If Lou and Thad don't get a shot off of the pick-and-roll, Lou reverses the ball to, for example, Jrue Holiday on the opposite wing. Immediately, Elton Brand swings up and sets a pick-and-roll on Holiday's defender.
The Sixers have four multiskilled big men in Young, Hawes, Elton Brand and Vucevic, and they use that versatility to create spacing. When one big rolls, the other will often flash to the perimeter, making himself available for an open look and pulling his defender away from the rim.
This is how you make up for the lack of a star perimeter scorer, especially when you have a pile of capable ball-handlers (Turner, Iguodala, Holiday and Lou Williams) and four versatile big men. Everyone has always wanted this Sixers team to run, but coach Doug Collins has chosen instead to play at an average pace but make sure the half-court game runs fast and crisp. It's a well-run system that comes with caveats that must be tested against the league's best defenses.
The Kings are not at this precise of moment what you would call one of the "league's best defenses," assuming that by "league's best defenses" you mean "teams that don't allow processions of easy baskets quarter after quarter." So, um, this should be great!
Per usual, the Kings need electric performances from one or more starters and solid shooting from the bench to win. There is little room for error, as always. The team is not good enough to shoot itself in the foot repeatedly. Some nights, it won't be good enough to shoot itself in the foot once.
Game's at 4 (!). Game threads at 4 and 5:30. Let's go Kings! Win on the road!