As Elton Brand has alluded to for the past few days, he will miss at least one more game -- today's against the Dallas Mavericks. With Brand sidelined again, he will receive the added rest provided by the 76ers four-day layoff: They don't play again until Saturday against the New York Knicks.
Since last week's game against the San Antonio Spurs, Brand has mentioned that sitting through today's game would offer him the "optimal" recovery time for a dislocated right shoulder: six weeks. Brand dislocated the shoulder on Dec. 17, a win against the Milwaukee Bucks. Today, Sixers coach Tony DiLeo said that resting Brand today is best for the long-term:
"Our medical staff thinks the longer we can give him, the better it is for the long-term," DiLeo said.
The Sixers said they are "planning" on Brand returning to the lineup on Saturday. And, unlike last Wednesday, all signs seem to point to that game being Brand's return.
With Brand's absence, the questions about how his return will affect the streaking Sixers (winners of seven straight), can be pondered during the week. Yes, the Sixers have been 9-6 since his injury (counting that Dec. 17 win against the Milwaukee Bucks as a victory with Brand), including a seven-game win streak. But, let's put those questions aside and look at today's game.
How can the Sixers (20-2) defeat the Dallas Mavericks (23-17) and bump their record to above-.500 for the first time since they were 7-6 in late November?
The answer is pretty simple these days: Play the same way they've been playing. It's really not going to take a supreme effort, but rather the same effort that has somehow become commonplace. The one point I'll make is the free throw shooting. The Sixers were 15 for 27 against the Knicks. They're not going to be able to beat the Mavericks shooting that percentage. They just can't give away 12 points to a good Western Conference team.
But, in fairness, the Sixers had been shooting very well from the free throw line before that game.
My feeling about this game is that it's the end of a long stretch where the Sixers have played a lot of games. I'd be surprised if we didn't see "someone else" contribute in a big way today. I think we'll see Reggie Evans, Willie Green, or Samuel Dalembert come up with a big game to take some slack from Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Thad Young, Lou Williams, etc.
Time for the game.
p.s. That photo is of Dirk Nowitzki shooting before the game. I like that photo, it shows how much he uses his legs on his shot. Let me clarify, I like it enough to post it on my blog, not enough to enter it into a photography contest. My standards are low.