CONVERSATION: Blazers Start Road Trip Against 76ers | Game 24 Preview

Philadelphia is fourth in the Atlantic division, which should tell you something about how much of a threat they pose to the 19-4 Trail Blazers. Not all hope is lost for the 76ers as they do have some weapons including Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes has turned into a legitimate NBA center. Portland should be able to get their four game road trip started in Philadelphia with a win if they can execute to their talent level.

I took some time to sit down with Sean O’Connor of SB Nation’s LibertyBallers.com, a Philadelphia 76ers community.


Dane Carbaugh: What’s the deal with Michael Carter-Williams and what are the 76ers doing about the PG spot?
Sean O’Connor: MC-Dub somehow developed a knee infection so bad it out him in the hospital for 4-5 days. Beforehand he had been dealing with “knee soreness” which he played through in a double OT win against Orlando. While we were concerned it could have been MRSA or something like that, he seems to be recovering and won’t play for a few games, but luckily this shouldn’t be a long term issue.

Dane Carbaugh: Who have the PG duties fallen to, and how has that changed Philly’s offense?
Sean O’Connor: His replacement will be Tony Wroten, who is wonderful entertainment, if not that great. Wroten’s less of a natural point guard (he’s still a good passer but very turnover prone) and gets to the rim more often. The fall off isn’t that great between the two. But taking one good player and replacing him with, say Lorenzo Brown makes the team much worse overall. There’s also a drop off defensively, with Wroten being a decent defender while MCW is really good at least so far.

Stylistically Wroten attacks the rim more, while MCW picks his spots. MCW is also a better shooter. But Wroten’s pretty cool. I like him since he’s so entertaining but not great yet, with time to get better.

Dane Carbaugh: The 76ers are third in efficiency on the break, but last in opponent points from three pointers. The Blazers are terrible at defending the break, but they’re one of the best three point shooting teams in the league. How do you see the push-and-pull of this game shaking out from Philadelphia’s perspective?
Sean O’Connor: Probably not in our favor. The Sixers do push the pace – and they do it on the strength of being the team maybe most committed as a whole to conditioning in the league. They will run off makes and misses, which makes them fun to watch. But opponents generally capitalize for good looks based on the high pace as well.

Combine the pace with a heavy dose of over aggression on helping in te lane both on the break and in the half court, and you get a pretty major defensive disaster. Oftentimes it comes down to the opponent making shots the Sixers can’t help but give their opponents, and the Blazers are better at making those than almost anyone.

Dane Carbaugh: How is the Evan Turner project going for Philadelphia? What year is it in? 8? 9?
Sean O’Connor: Feels like 20. He’s definitely improved in what’s really year 4, which is often cited as a make or break year for young players who haven’t yet fulfilled their potential. But the writing is on the wall for his departure, as the Sixers will probably dump him for any asset of value.

As for the actual on court play, he still has a sweet midrange game and still struggles to finish inside in the half court offense. But with the greater tempo comes easier shots at the rim, and more free throw opportunities as well. His numbers have spiked despite what’s really been a slight improvement because the team plays so fast. He’ll take his share of bad shots still, struggles defensively, and commits too many turnovers. But he can also carry an offense for minutes at a time, which has value somewhere else, I think.

Dane Carbaugh: What should the Blazers fans be looking for in terms of unique game from the 76ers? What kind of sets do they run, who holds the ball for them?
Sean O’Connor: The offense seems to be a mix of Spurs-lite, whatever they can get while running, and strangely some elements of the Doug Collins Sixers teams of the past few years (with a few caveats)

They run a lot of Sours-centric plays that Parker usually would go through. One that sticks out is one where the big (usually Duncan in SA, here usually it’s Spencer Hawes) gets the ball from Parker (Turner, MCW, or even Wroten here) who runs around screens from the other three players on court in trying to force switches or create an opportunity for an open jumper.

Another is a Collinsy give and go play where Hawes is the primary facilitator. He gets the ball up top and Has the option to give it to the guard cutting into the lane, the shooter in the corner (usually another ball handler, who stays in place if his guy helps on the cutter, cuts to the lane for a backdoor layup attempt if the guy stays but is falling asleep, or curls out for a pnr with Hawes if the guy is glued to him – Hawes then flares out to the three point line and is open if the big defending him helps too much on the guard who then has the ball in possession). The difference is Hawes actually stays behind the line now. Under Collins they were launching from 20 feet.

Dane Carbaugh: How about a game prediction?
Sean O’Connor: 113-95 #bazers

Where to watch

Philadelphia: CSN
Portland: CSNNW, Fox Sports 620 AM
Best Bet: The game will be on in Portland on CSNNW and in Philadelphia on CSN.
Game time is 5:00 PM PST

Dane Carbaugh

Editor of aYoungSabonis.com. Playbook Breakdowns on BlazersEdge. Newsdesk writer for SB Nation NBA. Follow me at @DaneCarbaugh