This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers who won four straight games heading into All-Star weekend.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into the Cavaliers team the Sixers face tonight from our colleagues Scott Sargent at waitingfornextyear.com as Scott will answer Fo’ questions on the Cavs from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight…
1) Sixers State of Mind: The Sixers start the “2nd half” of their season with five straight games at home. Four of those opponents have records below .500. Starting tonight, if the 76ers come out, play hard and smart for the next 10 days, they could run off a few wins and gain some respect among the fans for not quitting on the 2013-14 season. However, if starting tonight they lay down like dogs and that trend continues for the next 10 days – 2 weeks, we’ll know that Brown has lost this team and we are just sailing into ping pong ball heaven. Which may not be a bad thing for our lottery chance, but I won’t respect it.
2) The Sixers Perimeter D: I realize that Brett Brown has altered his defense some, but he is still primarily sticking with the “pick your poison” defense he installed where guarding the paint is top priority. At some point the Sixers guards/wings have to start defending opposing perimeter players more honestly. Continually running out at or recovering to your man on the perimeter is not the way to play D in the NBA, especially now that launching (and hitting) 3’s is all the rage thanks the advanced stats. So I’ll be interested to see if Brown learned anything from the first 54 games of the season and took some time over the All-Star break to change his philosophy further.
3) Thad, Spence & Turner: All three of the Sixers veterans have numerous trade rumors swirling around them right now. I realize this has been going on for most of the season, but with the trade deadline just 2 days away I would imagine the distraction level is at an all time high for these three players. I will be watching to see if the increased suspense has an impact on their individual games.
4) Kyrie Irving vs. MCW: The already very aggressive minded Irving will be riding high from his All-Star Game MVP performance and he’ll be out to prove that display in NO was no fluke. We all know that MCW has struggled this season with quicker point guards. Thus it could be a HUGE night for Irving. Hopefully Carter-Williams provides some defensive resistance and can contribute at the offensive end to combat Irvings efforts. FYI…the Cavs star guard has never won in Philadelphia, scoring just 8.8 per game on 13-of-50 (26%) shooting in four career runs here.
Q&A with Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com…
Philadunkia: Earlier this month, the Cavs fired Chris Grant after 8.5 years with the organization, 4 of those as the GM. What was your reaction to the move and will it have much of an impact this season?
Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com: I wasn’t surprised by the move at all, to be honest. I went to the now-infamous Lakers game with the sole goal of watching Grant as he watched his team. Little did I know that the game would be a rock bottom of sorts, eventually resulting in one man losing his job. As you intimated, Grant’s standing with the Cavaliers was very high; Dan Gilbert appointed him general manager during a time of franchise turmoil. He has made some spectacular trades (like getting a potential lottery pick for Jon Leuer), but was handed a rough deck with regard to the talent in the last several drafts. The team seems to be inspired as of late, but it could be ephemeral. Going forward, it will likely come down to whatever David Griffin (acting general manager) does or doesn’t do prior to the deadline.
Philadunkia: What, if anything, do you take from Kyrie Irving’s outstanding performance during the 2104 ASG?
Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com: There is no denying that Irving is an incredibly talented player. His performance at the All-Star game should surprise no one. Where he struggles is on the defensive end, an area in which the All-Star game doesn’t exactly thrive. The kid can get to the rim whenever he desires, so, if anything, I hope he uses the past weekend as a wake-up call of sorts to stop taking so many midrange jump shots. When he drives, not only will it create for himself, but it will open up spacing on the offensive end and lead to considerably fewer fast breaks the other way.
Philadunkia: What is the move you want to see the Cavs make before the trade deadline?
Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com: Naming names would prove to be fruitless as we never know who is available, but the Cavs need two roles: A rim-protecting big man and a wing who can hit open shots in the event he emerges from a double-team as the open man. How Griffin could/would go about acquiring such assets, I’m unsure.
Philadunkia: The Cavs won 4 straight headed into the ASG. Give us two or three of the keys to their success during that stretch?
Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com: Schedule (Washington, Sacramento, Detroit), Trust (Kyrie and Dion Waiters FINALLY playing well off of one another), and Front Court Production (Tristan Thompson averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds; Anthony Bennett had a 19 and 10 game against the Kings). Two of these three are controllable items. Whether or not the Cavs can sustain them will be determined.
Thanks to Scott for his time and answers.
You can follow Scott Sargent on Twitter @WFNYScott.
You can follow us on Twitter @philadunkia.