A look at the series from Philadelphia’s view


We sat down with a couple of Sixers bloggers to get their opinions on the Magic-Sixers series, which starts today. Introducing…

Carey Smith is a TrueHoop comrade who gives a cool multimedia look at the Sixers over at Philadunkia. Check out the blog, and the video on the banner is pretty funny.

Our second guest is a man whose web address says it all: Brian from Depressed Fan, a Sixers blog. He goes in-depth on the Sixers, and you can check out his extensive series preview on his Web site. A big thanks to Carey and Brian for taking the time to answer a few questions.

You can read my answers to their questions at both of their sites.

Like Sun Tzu says in the Art of War, it’s absolutely crucial to know your enemy. Be forewarned, the interview goes pretty long.

OMD: Are there are any misconceptions the average fan might have about the Sixers?

Carey Smith, Philadunkia: I think there are two League-wide misconceptions about the Sixers. The first is that we are an excellent defensive team. We’re a solid defensive at best. We do a nice job of picking off ill-advised passes and stripping the ball away from big men, but our perimeter defense is horrific. The Sixers wing players can not guard elite offensive weapons in this League and as a team we still struggle with defensive rotations. That means opponents frequently get wide open outside looks, which is good news of Hedo and Lewis.

The second misconception is that Andre Iguodala is our best player. For my money he’s the third best player on the Sixers. I’d rank Miller and Young ahead of Iggy. I just hope and pray that Young develops into a legit NBA #1 option so that we can drop Iguodala into that #2 role here he belongs and create our own MJ and Scottie thing here in Philadelphia. If Young does not develop into that offensive star we need, we’re in trouble in the long haul as the huge contracts we gave Brand and Iguodala give us no cap room to make a big move in the near future.

OMD: What can the Sixers do to stop Dwight Howard?

Brian, Depressed Fan: This is probably going to sound silly, but if I was Coach DiLeo, I wouldn’t spend one second worrying about stopping Dwight Howard’s offense. I’d leave Sam Dalembert and Theo Ratliff on an island against him every second of the series. I’d tell them to do what they can to slow him down, take fouls to avoid dunks and concentrate on keeping him off the offensive glass, but I would never, ever double down on him.

I’d rather take my chances on Dwight Howard’s back-to-the-basket game than leave Lewis, Lee and Turkoglu open for threes. On the other end of the floor, I think you have to attack shot blockers. Sam Dalembert isn’t going to put Howard in foul trouble, but dribble penetration by guys like Miller, Iguodala and Thad Young could.

Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Honestly, not much. I am sure they’ll double down with a guard, but that’s not going to stop DH. Sammy Dalembert will be in foul trouble throughout this series and thus DH will get a heavy dose of Speights, Ratliff and Reggie Evans. Speights will not embarrass himself. However, it could be comical (for Magic fans at least) to watch Evans and Ratliff guard “Superman”. I just pray that Evans doesn’t resort to thug ball circa the Riley led Knicks and the “Jordan Rules” and thus ugly up this series.

OMD: What do you make of the Sixers injury situation? Thaddeus Young returned on Wednesday, but do you expect the injury to affect him going forward? And what about Sam Dalembert’s back injury?

Brian, Depressed Fan: In his first game back, Thad seemed to tire a little toward the end. He left a couple jumpers really short and actually whiffed on a dunk. In the second game, though, he looked like his old self again, scoring 24 points in 37 minutes. I’m not worried about his ankle at all.

As for Dalembert, I haven’t heard a word about it. Again, contrary to popular opinion, Sammy is a pretty tough guy. He played through a few injuries that I’m sure would’ve knocked a lot of guys out this season. He hasn’t missed a game since 2005-2006, so I expect him to be in the lineup on Sunday, physically. Whether he’s there mentally is anyone’s guess, but he seems to show up for the important games, historically, so I’m hopeful.

Carey Smith, Philadunkia: I don’t think the Sixers injures will be a factor. I do however think Orlando’s nagging injuries will be a factor. Thad looked great in his two games back at the end of the regular season. Watching those games you could not even tell that he had been hurt. As for Big Sammy, I can only assume that he will be able to play and near 100% as I have not heard or read that his shoulder strain is major. But I’d bet the mortgage that if DH embarrasses him badly at some point that the injury suddenly gets a lot more serious and Dalembert misses time in this series.

OMD: As you know, the Sixers really struggled in the last month of the season. What went wrong during that run? And what can they do to turn it around?

Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Two things happened to the Sixers in the last month that really messed up an otherwise decent season.

The first was the schedule: vs. Detroit, at Charlotte, at Chicago, vs. Cleveland at Toronto, vs. Boston and finally at Cleveland is a tough closing grind for a .500 team. The second factor in our collapse during the last month of the season was Thaddeus Young’s injury. Losing him for five games killed the Sixers offense and sent this team into a downward spiral.

Brian, Depressed Fan: If you can figure this team out, you’re a better man than I. They finished the season 1-6 with just horrible losses mixed in there. Prior to that, they won 10 out of 14 with 6 of those wins coming against playoff teams including wins at the Lakers and at Portland. If I had to put my finger on what went wrong over the last seven, I’d point to two things: Thad Young’s injury (he missed seven games) and exhaustion. They played 23 games over the last 39 days of the schedule. In that time they had 6 back-to-backs and they never had more than one day off between games.

Over that stretch, Andre Miller averaged 38 minutes per game and Andre Iguodala averaged 42. Those may have been the causes for the poor play, but the symptoms were horrible rotations on defense and worse defensive rebounding. That’s why they lost those six games in a row. Hopefullly, having Thad Young back and three off days will take care of both causes, but I can’t say I’m too confident we’re going to see the team that took down the Lakers and the Blazers for game one. This team is impossible to predict.

OMD: What do the Sixers have to do to pull off the upset?

Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Simply put, we’ll need a miracle. We’ve talked about it here at Philadunkia and even if the Sixers play perfectly and get some help from the refs and Hedo and Lewis go ice cold and Rafer reverts back to his early days in Toronto, the Magic still have Dwight Howard. Your big fella is a legit superstar in this League and in the event that all of the above happens in some sort of “perfect storm” for the Sixers, he could still single handedly carry the Magic safely through this series.

Brian, Depressed Fan: They have to make Orlando find some other way to beat them other than the three-point line. It’s Orlando’s biggest strength, and the Sixers’ biggest weakness. As far as games go, they need to get to Philly no worse than 1-1, then take both games at the Wach. That’s the only way I see an upset happening.

OMD: And finally, your predictions.

Brian, Depressed Fan: I’m pretty much physically incapable of picking against the Sixers, so I’ll say the team we saw go 27-15 from the beginning of January through the beginning of April will somehow re-emerge and take the Magic down in 6. (If they don’t, Magic in 5 sounds about right.)

Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Despite the above most negative analysis of my Sixers, I think this will be a fun series to watch and that the Sixers could steal a game, possibly two. Magic in 5.