76ers vs. Timberwolves Preview: If the Jrue Fits

Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers come to Target Center tonight

Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers come to Target Center tonight

Tonight it’s back to the grind. The Philadelphia 76ers come to town for a 7 PM (FSN) tilt at Target Center.

The 76ers are 22-29 on the season, 6-16 on the road. If the season ended today, the Sixers would be the 9th seed in the East. They’re sniffing the playoffs. Every game matters.

The Wolves are 19-31, and 12-13 at home. They’ve lost 16 of their last 19. The playoffs are pipe dream, but the Wolves are still trying to win now – no one’s calling in the tanks yet. A deal before Thursday’s trade deadline does not appear imminent. But you never put it past Wolves POBO David Kahn to find a way to move pieces. (We floated this on Twitter earlier today for fun, and it provoked some, errrm, “strong” reactions (hereherehere.)

What does this mean for tonight’s game? We’re not looking at a Battle of the Titans, but we are looking at a couple of relatively evenly-matched teams. Both teams have stuff to prove. It’s a winnable game. It will be fun.

So who are these 76ers I speak of?

Only the hardest of the hardcore NBA junkies outside Phila have watched more than a handful of Sixers games. They’re not that much fun to watch. They struggle to score. They play in the Eastern Conference.

When it comes to the Sixers, the only positives you can take to the bank are Jrue Holiday’s skillz and Spencer Hawes’ mullet.

Holiday, one of the many guards Wolves POBO could should have taken instead of Jonny Flynn in the 2009 NBA Draft  – a list that, in addition to Holiday includes the likes of Curry, Stephen; DeRozan, DeMar; Jennings, Brandon; and Lawson, Ty, to name the obvious ones – just played in his first All-Star game. He’s having a helluva season – 19 ppg and 8.9 apg (good for 4th in the league, immediately behind GREIVIS VASQUEZ and immediately ahead of Russ Westbrook), not to mention playing the best D in the League east of Paul George and Tony Allen in Indy and Memphis, respectively.

The Sixers mirror the Wolves in some ways Wolves fans can relate to:

  1. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Point: Holiday’s brilliance reminds in many (but not all) ways of what Ricky Rubio is (passing, defense) or could be (a good scorer who isn’t an ideal first option).  At only 22 years of age, both players’ best days lie ahead.
  2. The Absent Frontline Star: For Philly, it’s Andrew Bynum; for the Wolves, it’s Kevin Love. Bynum swears he’ll play again this season, but who knows? Love should be back this season, provided he can lay off the knuckle pushup training routine for a few more weeks. As great as Holiday and Rubio are, neither’s star shines as bright as an individual than as a floor leader and distributor. Bynum and Love’s returns can’t come soon enough for these teams, unless you’re after ping-pong balls, not Ws.
  3. Filling the Gaps: Here’s the projected starting lineup for each team for tonight’s game.
76ers Timberwolves
PG Holiday 19.0 vs. Ridnour 12.3
SG Young 11.5  vs. Rubio 7.8
SF Turner 13.8 vs. Gelabale 6.6
PF Allen 6.6 vs. Williams 9.9
C Hawes 10.2 vs. Pekovic 15.9

Thad Young and Ricky Rubio (or Luke Ridnour, it doesn’t matter) are going to be matching up at shooting guard?

Gelabale’s still a starting small forward?

Lavoy Allen – who’s he?

Spencer Hawes’ Mullet as a stand-in for Andrew Bynum’s Mullet? Whatever value Hawes adds in Mullet, well, he lacks it in game.

Spencer Hawes (Photo brought to you by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Spencer Hawes (Photo brought to you by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Clearly this isn’t what either team envisioned at the season’s outset. And so you get funky rotations and weird matchups. For Wolves fans, finding regular rotations that don’t lead to Matchup Hell at one position or another has become a fascinating if extremely trying chess game to watch. I suspect the same is true for Sixers fans.

So tonight should be fun. I missed NBA games during the break. I really missed Wolves games. No matter how bad it gets, “Wolves basketball == YES” > Wolves basketball == NO”.

As a great philosopher once said…

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