Philadelphia 76ers vs Detroit Pistons Matchup - Part 1
by Ricki Ptakowski
With the Sixers knowing now that they will take on the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, SIXERS.COM will take a deeper look at the individual match-ups and what the Sixers need to do in order to go deeper into the playoffs.
The Back Court
Point Guard- Andre Miller vs Chauncey Billups
This match-up will be the most compelling of the series. Miller had a career year for the Sixers, averaging 17.0 points, 6.9 assists, 4.0 rebounds while shooting 49.2% from the floor. Both his points and shooting percentage are career highs and his turnovers (2.53 per game) are the lowest they have been since his rookie season. His veteran leadership has help so many of his teammates grow and fulfill their potentials. An old-school point guard, Miller looked to get his teammates involved throughout the year. His unselfish play spread and the players realized that the best way to succeed was playing Ďteamí basketball. But Miller did more than just passing, whenever the Sixers needed to have a bucket, in stepped Miller. Andre hit a countless number of big shots throughout the Sixers surge into the playoffs. For the Sixers to have success they are going to rely on Miller to do more of the same. Their half-court offense has struggled at times, so Miller will need to assert himself as a scorer when the O canít get it going.
Millerís job wonít be easy though as heíll have to contend with the Pistons best player- Chauncey Billups. Billups was named to his third All-Star Team and should certainly be in consideration for an All-NBA selection (would be his third straight). Billups and Miller have similar styles in that they both like to bully smaller guards by backing them down on the low block. Billups is an intelligent guard as well, he knows when to push the tempo, when to slow it down, when to get his teammates involved, and like Miller, Billups knows when to take over. There is a reason they call him ďMr. Big Shot.Ē While the Pistons have had an extraordinary amount of success in recent years, Billups has been the one to step up and not only take but make all the big shots necessary for his team to win. Look for him to get the ball in key situations and definitely down the stretch.
Millerís passion for the game has never been more evident than this year. At nearly 32 years old, he is having a career season, while leading the Sixers into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. He is averaging a career high 17.0 points per game, while also shooting a career best 49.2% from the field. But itís not as much about the percentage of field goals Miller connects on as it is about the timing of those field goals.
Shooting Guard- Willie Green vs Richard 'Rip' Hamilton
Like Miller, Willie Green has had a career year as well. Averaging career highs in points (12.4), rebounds (2.5), assists (2.0), shooting percentage (43.6 FG%), and minutes (26.6 mpg). Green can score in bunches too, his ability to put the ball on the floor and spot up for jumpers is key to the Sixers offense. When Green is hitting shots, the Sixers can be a scary offensive team. Although Greenís offense has improved dramatically this season, itís his defense that has enabled him to stay on the floor for long stretches even if he isnít scoring. Green usually has the task of guarding one of the opponents best perimeter players and he has done an admirable job at it.
Recently Andre Iguodala credited Green for being a Ďdefender on offense,í citing that because Willie runs through so many screens and never stops moving on the offense end, he tires his opponents out, thus wearing them down so much that they canít contribute on their offensive end. Sounds eerily familiar to Greenís opponent in this series.
Rip Hamilton might be one of the gameís best mid-range shooters. Leave him open and you mind as well just put two points up on the scoreboard. And just how does the Coatesville, PA native do it? Screens, screens, and more screens. Watch a Pistons game for five minutes and you might see Rip run off a hundred screens. He is constantly in motion, slipping in and out of the paint, running off his big men- Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess. Hamilton has mastered the ability to wear his defenders out, so look for the Sixers to keep fresh legs on him at all times. To make matters worse, in previous seasons opponents would let Hamilton shoot threes, considering it was the weakest part of his game. This year, Rip has made everyone pay for that theory shooting a lights out 44.0% from behind the arc. When you compared that to his career average of 34.5% from three point range, you understand what kind of year Rip is having.
The key to guarding Hamilton will be Greenís ability to stay on him as he runs through the screens. The Sixers will also have no problem switching assignments as Miller, Green, and Andre Iguodala can all match-up with the Pistons back court, but limiting Hamiltonís open looks will be essential if the Sixers are to have success.
Small Forward- Andre Iguodala vs Tayshaun Prince
Although he doesnít get all the press, Andre Iguodala put together another phenomenal season. The Sixers franchise player led the Sixers in scoring, averaging a career high 19.9 ppg. He was third on the team in rebounds with 5.4 rpg, and second on the team in assists with 4.8 apg. Whether it was scoring, rebounding, passing, or defending, Andre Iguodala did it all for the Sixers this season. Whatís scary is that people forget he is only in his fourth season as a pro, and he hasnít even turned 25 yet, meaning his ceiling hasnít been set. He took more than 280 shots than he had in any of his previous seasons, and shot a solid 45.6% from the floor. He also almost made more FGs than he did in first two seasons combined, so you can see that even though he has more responsibility, Iguodala hasnít collapsed under the pressure.
Iguodalaís opponent will be Tayshaun Prince, who is having his typical solid season. Prince will never light up a box score, but his talents can not go unmentioned. At 6-9 with a 7-2 wing span, Prince has freakish length. Combined that with his above average agility and high basketball IQ and you have one of the leagueís best defenders. Prince has been named to three All-NBA Defensive Teams and most likely a fourth this season because he can simply lock down opponents. Prince is also one of the best help defenders in the league, always at the top in block shots, so even when heís not guarding you, you need to account for his presence.
Prince isnít just a defender though, he can hit open shots, post up smaller players and gets out into the open court as well as anyone. For that matter he is the toughest match-up the Pistons have. Although the Sixers could put Thaddeus Young on Prince to match his size, I doubt Head Coach Maurice Cheeks will want to leave him on Prince for long stretches.