Since I spent a good portion of the past week watching the Sacramento Kings, I think we've got a good grasp on the matchups and tendencies for tonight's 76ers vs. Kings game.
First thing, Sacramento's star guard Kevin Martin, who missed the previous 32 games with a wrist injury, is back tonight and will be in the starting lineup. Before getting hurt, Martin was averaging over 30.0 points per game. This could be a bad thing for the Sixers. Maybe this is athletic lore, but often the first game back from a quasi-serious injury like this, you play really well -- almost like beginniner's luck. It's the second game back where reality hits. Guess we'll see if that holds true.
Sacramento is starting a backcourt of Tyreke Evans (6-6) and Martin (6-7). They'll be guarded (do we use this term loosely?) by Allen Iverson and Lou Williams. Before the game, we asked Sixers coach Eddie Jordan if he considered starting Jrue Holiday to have at least one bigger guard in the lineup -- since both the Kings guards are capable from the block. Jordan said they always consider matchups and game-planning issues, but that he has no intention of messing with the starting lineup.
Last time these two teams played, the Kings were without Evans and they still pounded the ball down low. It was a number of games ago, but it seemed Sacramento got whatever shot it wanted and the reason the Sixers won the game was because the Kings missed about a dozen chippies and the Sixers were shooting lights out that night. I guess my point is, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Kings pound the ball inside again -- to a different outcome.
Another guy to keep an eye on is rookie Omri Casspi, he's really good on the block and he seems to be the kind of player that gives the Sixers problems.
I haven't exactly seen every minute of every game the last two games (Hornets and Knicks), but I've seen enough to know the Sixers are playing better for two reasons:
1.) Samuel Dalembert is playing out of his mind.
2.) The rotation has been chopped. No Jason Smith, no Jason Kapono, no Royal Ivey. None. At all. Although Jordan said his rotation was fine and there was nothing quacky or quirky with it, it's quite obviously been tightened -- and, it seems right now, to have helped.
One thing that seemed interesting in the loss to the New York Knicks was Marreese Speights. I'm not even sure exactly what's interesting: That he didn't play in the first three quarters, or that after not playing in the first three quarters he had the final play drawn up for him. In the post-game Comcast coverage, Donyell Marshall called this "puzzling" (this is what happens when I watch the games from a TV, I end up quoting the Comcast coverage).
The Sixers are in the middle of a very easy stretch of the schedule where you assumed, if they were going to get back into the weak Eastern Conference "race", they would have to win the majority of these games. Losing to the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks at home won't get it done. We'll see what happens tonight against the 15-22 Kings.