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 San Antonio Spurs who stand at 5-3 and lost to the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night despite a season high 21 points from Manu Ginobili.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into the Spurs team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Matt Tynan at 48minutesofhell.com will answer Fo’ questions on his Spurs from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight…
1) Gut Check Time: After the 53 point blowout in Dallas, the Sixers shook themselves off and in their next game played to a much more respectable result against the Houston Rockets. However the Rockets were road weary from their trip to Mexico and it showed during the contest vs. the 76ers (HOU: 20% on 3PAS & 37% from the field). The Rockets were far from at their best on Friday night and when the Sixers let a win slip through their fingers it must have hurt. IMO that defeat in HOU produced back-to-back horrible losses (although the L’s came in much different fashions). Additionally, this is the third game of the Texas Three Step and I am sure this squad is eager to get home. Thus I will be watching tonight to see what kind of intestinal fortitude this you squad exhibits. Are they focused? Are they competing hard? Are they listening to Coach Brown in the huddles? If the answer to these and other similar questions is yes then this rag-tag bunch will have past the gut-check test for now.
2) Nerlens — Proof of Life: To be blunt, Noel has looked lost since his return from a sprained ankle that kept him out two games. Over his last two games he has recorded a total of 13 points and 13 rebounds to go with 7 personal fouls and 9 turnovers. It has not been pretty for #4 of late. Shaking completely out of this funk against an elite team like the SAS will not be easy, but I am looking for some sign tonight that Noel has a clue and is going to get back on track soon.
3) Brown’s First Five: Enough already of this nonsense where Noel and MCW are coming off of the bench. Put the two young “assets” in the starting lineup and lets try to compete from the opening tip. It’s bad enough that we have to sit through the season of the double tank, but continuing to start Davies and Thompson instead of a healthy Noel and MCW is an insult to our basketball IQ. If these two don’t start tonight, Adam Silver should suspend Brown and Hinkie immediately.
4) Kawhi Leonard: The 2014 NBA Finals MVP will be a restricted free agent next summer and I would not be upset if the 76ers made a run at him. So, I will be watching closely tonight to see what areas of his game he has improved from last June. I will also be interested to witness how inept he Sixers are a slowing Leonard down as I dream of him lacing up for the 7-6 in 2015-16.
Q&A with Matt Tynan at 48minutesofhell.com…
Philadunkia: With a highly anticipated game against the Cleveland Lebrons coming upon Wednesday, are you worried at all (try not to laugh here) that the Spurs will look past the 76ers, play poorly and get beat tonight?
Matt Tynan at 48minutesofhell.com: I’m not one to engage in hyperbole with this stuff, especially so early in the season, but to say I’d be shocked if the Spurs lost this game would be an understatement. I would say that, while Spurs-Cavs is sort of a marquee NBA matchup, I’d bet fans are more looking forward to it than the players. San Antonio doesn’t typically look past or ahead to anyone during the regular season. Results in November just aren’t all that important, so it’s not like that date is circled on their calendars or anything like that. So, coming off a loss in Sacramento at the end of a decent road trip, I expect this to be pretty one-sided from the tip. The Spurs haven’t been very good so far this season (relatively speaking), but a nail-biter against the worst NBA team I’ve ever seen would probably set off an alarm or two. I know Philly put up a tough fight against a very good Rockets team in Houston, but the Spurs are on a different level in terms of discipline.
Philadunkia: It’s early in the 2014-15 season, but have you seen any issues so far that you think may plague the Spurs all year?
Matt Tynan at 48minutesofhell.com: It is early, but they’re not getting the kinds of shots we’re accustomed to seeing. San Antonio has thrived for years setting guys up for catch-and-shoot assist opportunities, but so far they aren’t getting the same looks. I’m not sure it’s anything to be concerned by at this point, especially considering the injuries to Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Tiago Splitter (who doesn’t shoot, but draws attention around the paint and is a good passer), but so far it’s been the offense that’s struggling. That’s the last thing you’d expect from this team. Again, I do think it will remedy itself eventually, though, so in terms of something that will plague them all year? I’m not sure about that. When they’re playing well, there isn’t really a major weakness. Still, as always, we will be watching the health of the Big 3 for the remainder of the season. That’s probably the No. 1 thing.
Philadunkia: Like a lot of online scribes, I think Kawhi Leonard is a very solid young player and I hope the 76ers make a run at him next summer. While there’s no doubt he is a rising player in this League, he’s still developing, so what element of his game do you feel needs the most work?
Matt Tynan at 48minutesofhell.com: I’m sure teams will make a run at him, but I’d say the chances of pulling him out of San Antonio are slim to none. Despite being the youngest player not named Magic to ever win a Finals MVP, Leonard is still adding onto his game. He’s like a building-block set that grows a little bit every year. Remember, this dude was very raw offensively coming out of college, where he played more as a four-man than a perimeter player. He’s still learning how to attack off the dribble and create his own shot, and he’s still developing as a playmaker or facilitator within the offense. He’s already an absolute monster defensively and on the boards, but his overall offensive game still needs polishing. I believe his best days are still a couple of years down the road.
Philadunkia: The Spurs are coming off a four game road trip and have two more road games this week (@ CLE & @ MIN). So which SAS players are you hearing/do you predict Pop will rest tonight?
Matt Tynan at 48minutesofhell.com: Don’t think you’ll see anyone resting. Mills, Belinelli and Splitter are already listed as OUT with various injuries, but it’s highly unlikely — with a day off yesterday and a day off tomorrow — you’ll see Pop sit anyone. I know a lot is made of the Spurs resting players, but it doesn’t happen as frequently as the hype would lead you to believe. Everyone will be out there, barring some sort of unexpected, last-second change.
Thanks to Matt Tynan at 48minutesofhell.com for his time and answers.
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