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 upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponents, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who like the Sixers, have won four straight coming into tonight.
Minnesota is responsible for the arguably the Sixers most embarrassing loss of the year. In a season full of bad Ls for the Sixers, that’s really saying something. If you think back to that MLK Day matinee game, you’ll remember that Jonny Flynn torched the Sixers for 29; “Big Al” Jefferson put up 23 & 13; and Ryan Gomes scored 14 of his 16 in a wild 3rd quarter as Philadunkia’s home team blew a 20-point lead and lost 108-103 in OT. Ohh yeah, we forgot to mention that the T-Wolves won without big man Kevin Love that game. Embarrassing does not begin to describe what happened in Minny that day.
Okay, so now that we’vehad our history lesson, let’s talk about tonight’s game. We expect a high scoring affair tonight as the game will feature two of the worst defensive units in the NBA. Minnesota is giving up 106.5 ppg. on the season, the third highest opponents scoring average in the League. The 76ers are allowing nearly 100 ppg., which ranks Philadunkia’s home team 14th in the NBA in opponents’ scoring average.
The biggest question for us regarding tonight’s game is how will the Sixers attempt to defend the T-Wolves’ Jonny Flynn, while also keeping the big-man tandem of Al Jefferson and Kevin Love in check and not allowing Corey Brewer many open looks? It’s a tall order and it’s not one we think the Sixers can handle, but here’s how we would do it.
First you have to lock-down Flynn as he is the key to the Wolves offense. So Jordan should simply take Jrue Holiday and play the Sixers rookie every minute of the game that Flynn is on the floor. Hopefully, Holiday’s fantastic on-ball defense will keep Flynn out of the paint and thus limit the number of easy looks the Wolves rookie gets. If Holiday can keep Flynn out of the lane, it should restrict the number of bunnies that Jefferson and Love put in off of Flynn assists or follows. Additionally, keeping a wrap on Flynn should cut down on the wide open 3-ball looks for Brewer, who is quickly becoming a feared long-range shooter in this League, as the drive and kick to an open shooter scenario will not be available to Flynn. Once Flynn is dealt with, you then use the Sixers deep list of bigs – Brand, Sammy D, Speights and Jason Smith to make Love and “Big Al” work hard for every basket. Finally, you assign Iguodala the task of guarding Brewer.
Let’s hope Jordan has learned something from the brutal loss in Minnesota back in mid-January and doesn’t make the same boneheaded coaching mistakes he made on that day — like guarding the ultra quick Flynn with Iverson and Louis. Additionally, let’s pray that the Sixers players come out fired up and hungry to avenge their brutal loss to the T-wolves back in January. We like the Sixers to win the game tonight. The Wolves in general can not shoot, play no defense, struggle mightily from three-ville (32.9%) and their two premiere bigs are very slow. Plus we have the whole revenge thing going for us. So if everything goes according to our plan tonight, the Sixers will extend their W streak to 5-games and unfortunately keep Jordan’s job on life support.
For a little more insight into the Timberwolves team the Sixers face today, we turn to our man Patrick Hodgdon from howlintwolf.com to answer two questions on the Wolves from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this Minny squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : The Wolves currently have a four game winning streak, the last two Ws coming at Dallas and vs. Memphis. So are things getting turned around in Minnesota or is this just a small hot streak??
Patrick Hodgdon @ howlintwolf.com : Things are really and legitimately turning around for the Wolves. It’s been pretty remarkable but both the coaching staff and the players need a round of applause for it. Rambis and his staff havedone very well keeping the guys positiveand working hard to improve. Through all the losing no one has been pointing fingers or getting down on other guys which you normally see with teams that lose a lot of games. As a result guys havebeen able to keep improving without worrying about bad play, most notably Corey Brewer going from ‘Josh Smith please don’t shoot away from the hoop’ to get the ball to Corey so he can hit another 3.
Philadunkia : We understand that somebody at howlintwolf.com has a thing for our man Andre Iguodala. What trade are you proposing between the Sixers and the Wolves that would land our “franchise player” in Minnesota?
Patrick Hodgdon @ howlintwolf.com : Well I wouldn’t say I love Iggy, but he’s an above average player that has been rumored to be available and the Wolves have at least some of the pieces to get a deal done.
My initial trade idea was Corey and our expirings along with the Jazz’s first rounder we own for Iggy and Dalembert. If that wasn’t enough then the Wolves could throw in Ramon Sessions perhaps. It sounds like Philly is looking to and would get more in a deal if Iggy is involved.
Now however I’d rather have Corey at his price than Iggy at $11mil. Sooo, I came up withan alternative of our expirings for Dalembert and your 2010 #1. This would be a king’s ransom for taking back Sammy D, but I figured it was reasonable if the rumors are true about just how bad you want to get rid of him and his two years. Perhaps that’s only if they can trade Iggy or Brand with him.
That all being said I think Kahn isn’t going to do anything big at the deadline as he has been adamant about keeping this core through at least the end of the season.
Two Points of Analysis from Patrick Hodgdon @ howlintwolf.com :
1) For the Wolves, just like their last matchup with the Sixers, the key is to slow down Iguodola from scoring a bunch. On Saturday against the Grizzlies Rudy Gay was scoring at will down the stretch. The Wolves were lucky that Jefferson was just as hot but they’ll need to focus in on Iggy tonight to get to 5 in a row.
2) For the Sixers the key is figuring out a way to adjust to the hot hand. The Wolves triangle offense is finally paying dividends and is allowing them to take what the defense gives them. The Wolves are starting to make the right reads and it has allowed them to use a very balanced attack. For instance on Saturday night Gomes went for 20 of his 26 in the first half, Corey went for 13 of his 15 in the 3rd quarter, and Jefferson dominated the 4th going 8 for 8 from the floor. The Sixers will need to find a way