The 76ers have just cleared point guard Andre Miller for tonight's game against the Miami Heat. Miller strained his right calf in the third quarter of Wednesday's loss to the Denver Nuggets. Miller said yesterday he intended to play, then repeated that sentiment when he arrived at the American Airlines Arena about 90 minutes before the tip.
But Miller wasn't officially cleared to play until Sixers trainer Kevin Johnson had Miller do a few drills on the court. Miller jogged, did defensive slides, and changed pace. He was on the court for about 10-15 minutes.
Tonight's game will be the 502 consecutive game Miller has played. Miller will start at point guard tonight, per usual.
Miller's health is especially important because the Sixers do not have a clear-cut backup point guard. Sixers coach Tony DiLeo said before the game -- before Miller was officially cleared to play -- that he had a number of choices: Lou Williams, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Royal Ivey. But the truth is none of those guys are starting point guards in the NBA. Miller's presence, although sure to be somewhat hindered by the injury -- if not because of physical limitations, then at least slightly because he hasn't played since Wednesday -- is much needed by the Sixers.
Sixers are going with their normal starting lineup: Miller, Green, Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Samuel Dalembert.
Yesterday at practice, Dalembert had a lot to say about the Thursday trading deadline, remaining a Sixer, and his year-long struggles. To read that, click here: Samuel Dalembert.
Before tonight's game, DiLeo said about Dalembert, "The only thing I was surprised about was that he expressed his views to the press." DiLeo added that if you asked any NBA player, he would tell you he could/should play 48 minutes a game.
As far as tonight's game goes, it's a difficult one for these Sixers, who have lost the first two games -- and shot poorly -- since the all-star break. The Heat traded Marion for Jermaine O'Neal, who will start tonight at center for Miami. DiLeo said he believes the trade makes Miami better because it gives them an inside-outside presence with O'Neal and all-world Dwyane Wade.
The big issue, though, is the Sixers shooting percentage. They've made about a third of their shots since the break. DiLeo said he hopes to see more ball movement and less quick shooting tonight in the half-court sets, as well as a better transiton game. DiLeo admitted that most teams must focus on stopping the Sixers' running game. But the fastbreak game should be such that the Sixers create it with steals, deflections, and solid defensive rebounding. It shouldn't be something affected -- too much -- by a specific Miami strategy.
Lou Williams has been struggling with his shot for about two-to-three weeks. He said he usually tries to get his first shot going to the rim (rather than shooting from the outside) but that can be tough as he is often called upon to shoot the end-of-quarter shot at the end of the first. Williams usually checks in with one or two minutes left in the first quarter. Keep an eye on what kind of shot Williams first takes tonight. If he can get some easy points getting to the rim, or in transition, he could get himself back on track.