Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sixers vs. Pistons: Series Breakdown

After making my NBA playoff predictions yesterday, it's time to take a closer look at the Sixers series with the Pistons, which gets under way today. The Sixers have a tough road ahead if they want to get past Detroit, a veteran team who has been through the wars together and know what it takes to win in the playoffs. Philly will make the Pistons work for everything, never letting up until each game is over, but the Pistons are simply too good to be taken down by the Sixers. Here is my breakdown of the series, broken down by position. For an even closer look at the series, has some great insights on their Pistons/Sixers series page.

Backcourt: The Pistons back court, while it's getting old, is still one of the best in the league. Chauncy Billups and Richard Hamilton can score, play defense and be floor leaders. Billups runs the show for Detroit, and he always tries to get everyone going offensively. For the Sixers, Andre Miller is the catalyst to everything they do, from running the fast break to creating turnovers. Miller is the steadying presence on a team filled with youth. Unfortunately for Miller, he will be matching up with Billups, a guard who is too smart to be taken advantage of. Miller thrives when playing against less experienced point guards who don't play fundamentally sound. Willie Green is the Sixers starting shooting guard, and while he can take the ball to the hoop pretty consistently, he's no match for Rip Hamilton. Bill Simmons of ESPN calls Green the worst starter of any team in the NBA, and while that's a little extreme, Green will be exposed in this series. EDGE: PISTONS

The Sixers are still deciding whether they will be starting Reggie Evans or Thaddeus Young at power forward, but whichever one they choose will be at a disadvantage against Rasheed Wallace. Evans has the size and energy to match-up with Evans, but having the smaller Young in the game would allow the Sixers to out-run the Pistons. It's an interesting dilemma for Mo Cheeks, but I bet he plays it safe and goes with Evans. The best frontcourt match-up is at small forward, where Tayshaun Prince will be paired with Andre Iguodala. Iguodala has proven that he can slow Prince down in the past, but the question will be if Prince can still keep up with Iguodala, whose game has greatly improved this season. Prince and Hamilton both figure to be matched up on Iguodala at different points as the Pistons try to slow down the Sixers leading scorer. At center, Samuel Dalembert is much improved this season, and I see no reason why he can't keep up with Antonio McDyess or Wallace when he's playing center. Dalembert's rebounding and defense starts many a fast break, so if he can build on his regular season performance, that would be big for Philly. EDGE: PISTONS

Bench: Assuming they start Reggie Evans, the Sixers get a ton of energy from their bench when Thaddeus Young, Louis Williams and Rodney Carney come into the game. All three provide a big spark and help the Sixers push the ball down the throat of the other team. The only other player that figures to be in the Sixer rotation will be Jason Smith, who can spot Dalembert or Evans for a few minutes.

The Pistons have a few contributors from their bench, starting with Jason Maxiell, but they aren't known for their depth. The Pistons might have the best starting five in the league, but their bench consists mostly of role players like former Sixer Theo Ratliff and ancient veteran Lindsey Hunter. Jarvis Hayes can also come in to shoot the three, but they really don't have anyone that can match all the energy the Sixer bench provides. EDGE: SIXERS

There is a definite contrast in styles between these teams, with the Pistons playing a more methodical game and the Sixers looking to run the fast break every chance they get. Unfortunately for the Sixers, while the Pistons prefer to slow it down, they are versatile enough to run with Philly if they have to. Andre Iguodala can't guard both Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, so one of them will have a mis-match against Willie Green, something the Pistons will exploit every chance they get. The Pistons are simply too experienced to let an upstart team knock them off in the first round, so while the Sixers have been a great feel-good story this season, it looks like its all about to end after the Pistons win in 6 games. Philly will steal one of the first two games, and then get a split at home to keep the series close, but the Pistons will close it out by winning games 5 and 6. Then the Sixers will go into the off-season happy that they got some playoff experience under their belt, and looking for that missing frontcourt piece that can take them over the top down the road.

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