San Antonio Spurs @ Philidelphia 76ersWells Fargo Center, Philidelphia, PA
November 11, 2013, 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
After disposing of the Knicks in a fashion old-school mobsters would be proud of, the San Antonio Spurs take on the Philadelphia 76ers tonight in a modified version of a back-to-back on the east coast. With San Antonio's matchup against New York being so early in the day on Sunday, San Antonio will have more time to rest than in a normal SEGABABA scenario, which is great for a team always searching for a way to give starters rest. On a four-game winning streak, the Spurs finds themselves in a familiar position, looking down on the Western Conference with a 6-1 record.
While San Antonio's success thus far won't make many blink an eye, the 76ers and their 4-3 start have been one of the early surprises of the NBA, perhaps to the dismay of Philly fans that may have been banking on as many ping pong balls as possible for the 2014 NBA draft. It's a point guard from the 2013 draft, Michael Carter-Williams, who is making the biggest difference so far this season. Through seven games, Carter-Williams is averaging 18.7 points, 8.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds a game. On top of that, he's averaging 2.6 steals with an unrookie-like assist/turnover ratio of 2.6.
In sum, MCW is a budding superstar in this league and a young, energetic guard that'll give San Antonio problems because of his length, athleticism and decision-making ability. Even when his shot isn't falling, he's been able to fill a stat sheet by feeding teammates and playing inspired defense. His 6-foot-6 frame makes him a handful in his own end, and a guy that is hard to trap when he has the ball.
Evan Turner's emergence as a legitimate first-option scoring threat is also one of the reasons for the 76ers' quick start. Turner, who has been without a true position his whole career, seems to have found a home at small forward this season. The addition of Carter-Williams has taken pressure off of Turner as a ball-handler, which has freed him up to focus on scoring, where he's leading the team with 23.4 points a game as more of a slasher than pure shooter. Turner is also contributing 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game.
Former Spur James Anderson is starting at shooting guard, but Tony Wroten is a guy San Antonio will need to watch for because of his defensive ability. With Wroten on the floor, Carter-Williams can guard the two-spot and get away from any duel with Tony Parker, which will give the young rookie a break on defense. Philadelphia used this tactic to some success against the Cavaliers in their double-overtime loss on Saturday. But as soon as Anderson returned to the court, Carter-Williams moved back to cover point guard Kyrie Irving, who took over the game and got Cleveland the win.
Thaddeus Young is averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. He has also shown the ability to stretch the floor and is a legitimate threat from behind the arc. Spencer Hawes is averaging a double-double through seven games with 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds a game. The best part about Hawes, specifically in the framework of the Philadelphia team, is that he isn't a guy than needs plays run for him. He can be the third option on an offense with Carter-Williams and Turner.
Philadelphia is missing key role player Daniel Orton right now, which has hurt the defense. Brandon Davies has been counted on over the past two games with Orton out and it has hurt the frontcourt depth tremendously. Depth is going to be in San Antonio's favor, as the 76ers rely on starters to play a ton of minutes. Only an injured Orton and Lavoy Allen average double-digit minutes off of the Philadelphia bench.
This contest will be a clash in styles as the older, more methodical Spurs will try and grind down the young team on the road. San Antonio is 20th in the league in scoring, averaging 93 points a game, while the Sixers rank third in that category with 105.9 points a game. More concerning for Philadelphia is that, in part due to their pace, they're also giving up 106.9 points a game (29th in the league), while the Spurs are surrendering only 93 points per game which is good for second.
This game boils down to which team will control the pace. Can the Spurs make this a slow, every-possession-count type of game or will Philadelphia get to run up and down the court? The answer to that question gives you the winner, and it is much easier to trust a veteran San Antonio group on a roll than a young Philadelphia team still trying to find out who they are.
Matchup to watch: It'll be interesting to see how much time Tony Parker spends defending Michael Carter-Williams. With the young rookie being a bigger point guard and Philadelphia not having a real threat at shooting guard, I wonder if Parker switches off of Carter-Williams to save his legs so that San Antonio can get a bigger body on the rookie to beat him up and wear him down.
Philly's perspective can be found here: Liberty Ballers
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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